No Break for Eaters: Republicans Keep Sales Tax as Regressive as Possible

During last year’s debate over raising sales tax to raise teacher pay, conservative Republicans like Representative Elizabeth May justified their opposition to the plan by endorsing my argument that our regressive sales tax favors the rich and beats up the poor. Rep. May and some of her Republican colleagues said charging more tax on food is bad for poor, hungry kids.

Those Republican resistors of regressivity didn’t show up to committee Tuesday. House Taxation took up House Bill 1119, this year’s iteration of Democrats’ long-standing effort to ease the burden of sales tax on the poor by taxing food at zero percent. To keep the plan revenue neutral, prime sponsor Representative Ray Ring (D-17/Vermillion) balanced the food-tax cut by raising the tax on other goods and services by 35 hundredths of a penny, from 4.5% to 4.85%.

A South Dakota Budget and Policy Institute analysis of competing sales tax proposals last year found that zeroing the food tax and raising the rest of our sales taxes to 5% imposed less burden on the lowest 20% of income earners and no more burden on the next 75% of income earners than the general half-cent increase that we imposed last year. Only the top 5% of income earners would have paid more under the 0% food/5% else plan. Rep. Ring presented a similar analysis Tuesday, showing that cutting the food tax relieves the poorest South Dakotans of a significant tax burden imposed on their basic survival.

Every Republican present at House Taxation (except for Rep. Kyle Schoenfish—thanks, Kyle!) rejected Rep. Ring’s proposal to make South Dakota’s sales tax fairer. Democratic Representative Susan Wismer joined Ring and Schoenfish in casting the lonely ayes for fairness.

34 Responses to No Break for Eaters: Republicans Keep Sales Tax as Regressive as Possible

  1. Them who eat more should pay more in taxes. This is only fair.

  2. Porter Lansing

    Really, Grudzie? But, you’ve told us you steal food from Talley’s every chance you get.

  3. I pay for my food at Talley’s with hard American currency or infrequent gift cards provided by admirers and we’ll-wishers.

  4. Porter Lansing

    C’mon, Grudzie … I’m a chef. I remember when people laugh about ways they scam free food from a restaurant and you even explained how you do it. Do you want me to remind folks what you said or do you want to drop it?

  5. Thank you Rep. Ray Ring (D-17) for bringing this common-sense bill to the legislature. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough common-sense to pass it.

  6. My brain is addled from all the free gravy I have consumed over the years but I think Mr. Winegar should have spoken at greater length and with more vehemence on this law bill. Like how Mr. Nelson does.

  7. Porter Lansing

    Stolen food isn’t Free food. Restaurants don’t throw away buffet food if nobody eats it. There’re a myriad of ways chefs repurpose one food to enhance or multiply another dish. If you don’t pay for it and you’re not part of the group that does, it’s not “free gravy”. #RepublicanExcuses

  8. Nebraska does not tax groceries as noted by the good folk of Kansas. Of course in South Dakota, we are more interested in creating more punishment for the poor so on we go Christian Soldiers, marching off to the continued war on the poor.

  9. At Talleys I always order the Meat Lovers with a side of biscuits and gravy which I dump on top of the taters. And I know you live in Colorado so you wouldn’t know that I order off the menu at the Campbell Street Cafe.

    And I always pay my taxes even when I order the Migas for desert.

  10. Porter Lansing

    Colorado folks who live on the Front Range (about 3 million) who go out by the Kansas border to hunt pheasants notice little, dinky towns with really big grocery stores. Kansas farmers come cross the border and stock up on groceries here, too.
    Q ~ How can you convince South Dakota middle class folks to eliminate the grocery tax and institute a state income tax? Obviously the math that Cory notes above isn’t convincing. Is it really just selfish, bourgeois white folks like Elizabeth May that hate to see an underprivileged, low income person get a cheaper loaf of Old Home bread? I hope not. Maybe a commission to revoke some “South Dakota Nice” cards is in order. Hmmmm???

  11. Porter Lansing

    Alright, Grudzie. Since you won’t admit it you’ve said many times if you walk into Talley’s or anywhere and there’s a group buffet you’ll go over and talk to the table who are eating from the buffet, sit down eventually and then make your way to the buffet, without paying. You may think you’ve been invited by someone but group’s are charged by the person not by the pounds of food they eat.
    From now on, every time folks on The Free Press hear Grudz tell a person having hard times to just “work harder”, you can think about him stealing food from a buffet line.
    *PS … everytime you’re cornered, Grudz you bring up that I’m from CO. Is that supposed to make people not judge you for your selfishness? *two billys and a nanny

  12. Porter Answer: Yes, it is that bourgeois while folks do indeed have a hate on for the poor and especially, poor Natives. This is what drives the vote, fear. The stealing of the lands by the Dawes Act has not been so long ago. The fear is that some damn new government might be able to undo that Act and then what? What adds even more to this is what we are seeing in Washington now. The undoing of the EPA, the undoing of the Educations system, and the undoing of the Departments of Energy. The proposal by the booger eater Chafettz from Utah about the sell off of government lands, kind of got their attention as to what can happen as well.

  13. When I come back to SD, I’m always a bit startled at first when I buy groceries and see the extra money I pay in taxes. I really appreciate not having to pay food tax in MN.

  14. Mr. grudznick is cashy Kind of spendy for me it looks like.


    The Catholic Church spoke out against the proposed food tax in NM. And self-respecting Christian would be against taxes on food.

  16. Any self-respecting Christian

  17. Rounds is a Catholic so you kind of get the idea that being against a food tax does not resonate politically here.

  18. Don Coyote

    If you would broaden the base by removing some of the exemption transactions you wouldn’t have to raise the sales tax at all.

  19. Roger Cornelius

    I eat at Tally’s on occasion and it is indeed pricy, but the food and service are good.
    By no means is Tally’s the corner diner with a blue plate special.

  20. I have eaten there a couple of times in the olden days, they had a damn fine breakfast that was reasonable in price. I have not been back there so I do not know now how it is. If the food and service are good, sometimes that is worth the extra. I remember many years ago, there was a very small diner on East North Street. When I say small, I mean real small. I had some good chow there the few times I stopped. There were only a couple of stools as I remember, so you ate and moved on. Do you remember that place?

  21. Porter Lansing

    Sounds like the Good Eater Cafe which I believe is history.

  22. Yeah, there is nothing there now, but that could have been the name. Thanks

  23. Roger Cornelius

    You are probably right Porter if my memory is correct.

  24. Would only that I could walk around and join people at buffets, and would that Talley’s put their best breakfasting foods out on a buffet line. It would be like many years ago…

    *a tear rolls down grudznick’s cheek*

    On a side note, Mr. C I ended up cashing in that gift certificate Talley’s was holding in your name. Had the Meat Lovers with gravy. It was very good.

  25. Mr. jerry, when it comes to a solid and tasty breakfast you need to understand that the prices are not what is important. Or the taxes. People need to pay their taxes, be it for breakfast or for fancy cars with loud radios.

  26. Porter and Roger, you are correct! Forgot about the magic gravy and never tried it so cannot describe how magic it was.

  27. Mr. grudznick, if the dummy republicans plant Medicaid Block grants on the dummy republicans in this state, believe me, you will be paying taxes! You will be paying a whole lot of them. If that happens, you best sell the farm because it will become cost prohibitive to pay the dues. Think of several thousand old and infirm costing upwards of $200.00 bucks a day with no federal help to cover the expense, damn expensive.

    The balanced budget days for this state will be long gone, even with the robbery of property tax.

  28. I am OK with taxes, Mr. jerry. You need to remember that I am a past president of the Conservatives with Common Sense and I have a full understanding that if we want to have government services then we need to fund them. We cannot whine and cry about taxes unless we shut our yaps about wanting things.

    I am against taxing me just for you, like that one measure initiated to try to pay only the teachers, but taxes are taxes and they must be paid. Order me a big steak and put the tax on the bottom of the bill. I’ll be there soon.

  29. Porter Lansing

    Grudzie … I’ll be happy to welcome you to the land of liberals. Proud, really. You’re about 3/4 of the way here and understanding how taxes, in moderation, are necessary makes me smile. * two goats back to your barn :) PS … I’ll be having a meat lovers w/ biscuits and gravy on top, next time and I’ll toast you with my black coffee, sir.
    PSS … from the posts by Jones, Schoenbeck and his regulars on the other blog, it sounds like Sen. Nelson is coming to our “light side”, also. lol The fundamentalists don’t want him.

  30. That may well be the problem Mr. grudznick, that steak has to be raised someplace and that someplace would have to be hit with higher taxes to offset shortages in the Medicaid block grants. So the tax on that steak might be considerably higher than what it is today. Dig deep and do not dine alone, bring several drinking friends so that bottom of the bill thingy will seem less hard to swallow.

  31. How many years do you think it will be before we are not debating whether old grannies in the legislatures should be packing guns but whether we should be taxing those guns higher at the point of purchase or imposing a use tax or annual licensing fee?

  32. This bill is a perennial bill. Thank you Rep Ring for bringing it back, but the arguments are well-worn now. Some will recall that more than a decade ago we voted on this. We gathered the signatures and fought the good fight – got beat about 2-1.
    Rep May was correct (strangely enough) – the moral high ground favors people who must spend a greater share of their income on groceries, and thus bear a proportionally greater tax burden. Those people lost (again). The group in power now – sorta the same folks who have maintained a stranglehold on power eternally, it seems – won again this week. Who’s surprised?

  33. John Kennedy Claussen, Sr.

    I am glad to see that Democrats are raising this issue. I have actually heard some Democrats claim this is no longer an issue because of the existence of the federal earned income tax credit. But the EICT was not designed to indirectly subsidize state governments, just as our entire social safety net was not meant to subsidize the wages of employers like Walmart, which intentionally under pay….

  34. Broaden the base by cutting exemptions? Coyote, where were you when I needed you to defend me from the SDGOP/Novstrup attack on my suggestion that we have exactly that conversation?