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  • Samantha Johnson, NewsCenter1

South Dakota legislators set to support EAFB with a new task force

South Dakota Representative Mike Derby

RAPID CITY, S.D. - South Dakota is preparing to welcome an additional 14,000 airmen, airwomen, and their families to the state as the B-21 aircraft is set to make Ellsworth Air Force Base its new home.

A group of legislators are joining forces to establish a task force aimed at addressing the needs of the base.

Legislators in the Ellsworth Task Force:

  • State Sen. Michael Walsh, (R) District 35, Co-Chairman of the Task Force

  • State Rep. Gary Cammack, (R) District 29, Co-Chairman of the Task Force

  • State Sen. Red Dawn Foster, (D) District 27

  • State Sen. Helene Duhamel, (R) District 32

  • State Sen. Jean Hunhoff, (R) District 18

  • Senate Majority Leader Casey Crabtree, (R) District 8

  • State Rep. Mike Derby, (R) District 34

  • State Rep. Kameron Nelson, (D) District 10

  • State Rep. Tyler Tordsen, (R) District 14

  • House Majority Leader Will Mortenson, (R) District 24

State Sen. Walsh says, "Ultimately the goal is quite simple. The United States Air Force is investing a great deal in the future of this base. We need to reciprocate and invest back into the community that the Air Force is going to be a part of."

During the latest legislative session, Senate Bill 204, which aimed to allocate $15 million to the Douglas School District, was effectively halted. Derby emphasized that this realization marked the beginning of a long-term strategy, prompting the need for an educational effort on both sides.

"The goal of the select committee is to raise this issue to a higher level. I sometimes forget when you do live East River that there's Ellsworth and a whole economy that evolves around it," said State Rep. Derby. "And this is going to be very important as we move forward and try and help the congressional delegation leverage some of these federal dollars."

The task force will have two meetings to discuss future bills and policies. Additionally, they plan to tour Ellsworth Air Force Base to observe the $2 billion federal investment for the base expansion. Later in the summer, the task force intends to meet with East River legislators to underscore the importance of Ellsworth to the state.

State Sen. Walsh highlights why the entire state should be invested, saying, "Everyone should be invested in national security. National security is something that the federal government is responsible for," and he mentions, "East River legislators just need to know that we understand their concerns.  And part of this task force is, is the education piece, the educating of other people, the educating of East River, not just legislators, but the citizens of this river, because they deserve to know what’s as well going on out here [West River]."

With the $2 billion federal base expansion, the state will collect a 2% contractors excise tax and half of the $2 billion will be subject to a 4.2% sales tax. This could result in over $80 million in tax revenue for the state. Both Walsh and Derby agree that this can have a positive impact on the state as a result.

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