Sensible Republican blogger (the terms are not mutually exclusive) John Tsitrian says it’s crazy that South Dakota doesn’t have an income tax and it’s crazy to think we’ll ever get one.
Tsitrian doesn’t end as pessimistically as he begins. He says our Legislature will never muster the two-thirds majority necessary to impose a state income tax, but he believes voters could be persuaded to enact an income tax by ballot initiative, if they just understood that making our tax system less regressive would bring more tax fairness to a majority of taxpayers:
On a national scale, individual income taxes generate about a third of total state tax revenues, with slightly less than that share coming from sales taxes. South Dakota is a much different story. Sans income tax revenues, South Dakota in 2013 got an astounding 80% of its total tax revenues from sales and excise taxes. Talk about regressive, good grief. The tax burden in this state falls heaviest on the lower tiers of wage earners, who carve out taxes from a much larger share of their incomes than the well-to-do [John Tsitrian, “It’s Crazy (x2): South Dakota Has No Income Tax,” The Constant Commoner, 2015.12.27].
Tsitrian says an income tax ballot initiative would at least give us the chance for public debate to “clarify and instruct.” That’s the noble mission Tsitrian has chosen for his blog, but would any legislative or gubernatorial candidates dare follow him on that mission and fight for progressive taxation in 2018? Given that an income tax initiative would have to wait until 2017 for circulation and 2018 for a vote, would any 2016 legislative candidates be willing to plow that policy road?
Putting on my campaign advisor hat, I couldn’t advise a 2016 candidate to make state income tax a major campaign issue. I agree that South Dakota needs a more progressive tax system, but we have corruption, teacher pay, and Medicaid expansion to run on; that’s a three-point speech right there. Those three issues are easier winners than saying, “South Dakota needs a state income tax,” which opens the door for cheap attacks from the opposition and expensive explaining from the candidate advocating such good sense.
But hey, John Tsitrian! Maybe you could help lead the way to that conversation in 2016. What Legislative district do you live in again?