Majority Leader Brian Gosch (R-32/Rapid City) launched a slightly more subtle attack on House Bill 1182 this afternoon. Before the Stalzer Stall, but right after his neighbor Blue Ribbon K-12 panel co-leader Rep. Jacqueline Sly (R-33/Rapid City) Rep. Gosch offered an amendment to remove the “emergency clause” (Section 18) from the Governor Dennis Daugaard’s proposed sales tax increase. The Governor wants to enact the bill on June 1, rather than waiting for the normal July 1 enactment date.
Rep. Gosch noted that removing the emergency clause would not change the vote total required to pass HB 1182. HB 1182 raises taxes, so emergency or not, passage requires a two-thirds vote. Rep. Gosch said he simply wanted to prevent anyone challenging the bill in court by contending that the need to raise the sales tax in order to fund higher teacher pay in the FY2017 budget isn’t really an emergency.
Reps. Jim Werner (R-22/Huron) stood to oppose Rep. Gosch’s amendment. Rep. Werner explained that the sales tax collected in June is the first sales tax that goes into the state coffers in July 1, the beginning of the new fiscal year. Waiting until July 1 to enact means waiting until August 1 to collect. With tourism season hitting full swing, June is our second-biggest sales tax month; according to Rep. Werner, striking the emergency clause could strike $10 million from the $67.4 million the Governor hopes to put toward teacher pay, cutting the feasible raises from $8,000 to $6,800.
Rep. Thomas Brunner (R-29/Nisland) stood for Rep. Gosch’s amendment. He muttered something about learning a lesson from last year’s road bill tax hike. He said retailers need the extra month to adjust their machines to handle the higher sales tax rate. As I sat wondering just how long it takes to type “0.045” in the little box in your software that asks “sales tax rate,” Rep. Tona Rozum (R-20/Mitchell) got up and said retailers don’t need a whole extra month to rejigger their cash registers. (And frankly, I’m thinking all those retailers about whom Rep. Brunner worries won’t get around to checking their cash register instruction manual until May 30, anyway.)
Rep. Scott Munsterman (R-7/Brookings) threw in against striking the emergency clause. He said raising teacher pay to market rates is an emergency. That’s debatable—don’t pass HB 1182, and every teacher in our public schools won’t suddenly go poof (although all of our legislators might on November 8!)—but precedent says the courts will leave that debate to the Legislature. As long as HB 1182 deals with state government and its existing institutions (yup, schools exist!), the Legislature can decide its an emergency without much fear of judicial review.
Rep. Gosch grumbled back that his opponents had only said they want the emergency clause but hadn’t addressed whether HB 1182 really is dealing with an emergency (hey, Rep. Munsterman did… kinda… sorta…briefly) so his amendment ought to pass. The majority disagreed, and the amendment died.
The folks who stood for Rep. Gosch’s amendment appear to include those who stood to support the impending Stalzer stall:
What do we read from this? The Gosch amendment didn’t change one dollar in the bill or the vote count needed to pass it. The Gosch amendment did offer opponents one reason to consider voting yes: without the emergency clause, HB 1182 could be referred to a public vote. Skittish conservatives could give up their opposition to the sales tax hike and leave it to some well-funded group—the South Dakota Retailers? Americans for Prosperity? Grover Norquist?—to storm in with a referendum petition and big-money ad campaign to overturn the sales tax hike at the polls. “We tried to raise teacher pay,” those conservatives could claim, “but it turns out you the voters turned down the sales tax hike.”
If that was the plan, it didn’t work, and the conservative Republicans who don’t support this plan had to pull the Stalzer Stall to take the long weekend to figure what to try next.