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David Novstrup “Leads” Cons’ Last Gasp Against HB 1182

Sen. David Novstrup during Senate debate on HB 1182, 2016.03.01. Screen cap from SDPB.
Sen. David Novstrup during Senate debate on HB 1182, 2016.03.01. Screen cap from SDPB.

Senator David Novstrup established for absolute certain today that he won’t run against me for his District 3 Senate seat. He was appointed errand boy for the doomed effort of conservative Republicans to kill House Bill 1182, the sales tax for teacher pay, by amending it into an unpassable form. When his amendment failed, he voted against HB 1182, a vote that by itself would cost him 40% of his usual turnout… if he were foolish enough to run for re-election.

Senator David Novstrup opened the long-anticipated floor debate with an amendment that included the following provisions:

  1. Instead of raising the state sales tax from 4.0% to 4.5%, raise the tax only half as much, to 4.25%.
  2. Eliminate the property tax relief provided in Governor Daugaard’s plan.
  3. Direct revenue from sales on remote sales, to be collected under the as yet unpassed and still unconstitutional SB 106.
  4. If revenue from additional taxes exceeds what’s needed to reach target teacher pay averages, incrementally reduce the sales tax on food.

Senator David Novstrup’s numbers didn’t add up to the $67.4 million that the Governor is proposing for teacher pay. Questioned by Blue Ribbon K-12 panel leader Senator Deb Soholt about the discrepancy, Senator David Novstrup insisted that there was more money somewhere in the budget, but he didn’t write that money into his amendment. He thus proposed rewriting HB 1182 to provide less money than necessary to meet its goals and then have faith that someone would figure out where to get the rest later. In other words, Senator Novstrup asked legislators to vote for a plan that, by itself, would not work.

After a few speeches for and against, Senator Novstrup seemed to improvise, offering an amendment to his amendment. Apparently not prepared with a written amendment, Senator Novstrup asked every to replace his quarter-penny sales tax increase with a three-tenths-penny. If Senator Novstrup was winging it, he winged it well: if the Governor’s half-penny would produce $107.4 million in new revenue, Novstrup’s half-penny would produce $53.7 million; bumping up to three-tenths-penny would yield $67.1 million, close enough to the Governor’s figure that we shouldn’t quibble.

On face, Novstrup’s amendment to his amendment made his proposal superior to the Governor’s. He provided just about the same amount for teacher pay. He offered less new sales tax burden. It was voodoo fiscal policy, but he at least sorta-kinda-someday-maybe offered a chance of lowering the tax on food, thus making his plan sorta-kinda-someday-maybe less regressive than the Governor’s. And in a bigger whack at regressivity, he didn’t transfer wealth from grocery shoppers to property owners.

But that last part would have killed the deal, and I get the impression that Novstrup and every other Senator in the room knew it. Senator Soholt said commercial property owners in her District 14 had signed on to HB 1182 on the promise of property tax relief. Property tax relief is completely superfluous to the proper functioning of the plan, but as Rep. Lee Schoenbeck might have explained to me last summer, it is politically indispensible to passage of the plan in the 2016 Legislature.

Senators defeated Novstrup’s amendment to his amendment and his amendment on 22–13 votes. In the debate on the amendments and HB 1182 itself, the conservative Republicans opposing HB 1182 unamended bemoaned the sales tax’s regressive impact on the poor, its unfair transfer of wealth to property owners, and its potential to pressure schools to shed 400 teachers. For two hours, I was the ideological leader of the radical right wing of the South Dakota Republican Party.

But we know Senator Novstrup and his right-wing colleagues didn’t mean the things they were saying. David has been in Pierre for ten years. If he and the nine Republican Senators who voted nay with him on the unamended HB 1182, they would have done something about regressive taxes and their woeful neglect of K-12 funding long ago. Instead, after countenancing 30 years of the lowest teacher pay in the nation, Novstrup and his fellow opponents cast one more vote against doing right by our teachers.

And that is reason enough to make sure that David Novstrup and the nine naysayers for whom he fronted today never serve in our Legislature again.


  1. owen reitzel 2016-03-01

    I listened to part of what Novstrup said. I’m afraid he’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer.
    Listening to Betty Olson just about made me throw up.
    Olson was crying about how the tax increase will hurt poor people. When in the hell (sorry) has Olson given a damn about the poor? If she wants to help the poor maybe she should have tried to talk the Governor into expanding Medicare.

  2. grudznick 2016-03-01

    Seems like a lot of French Math being thrown around there today, Mr. H. If a penny increase would bring $214,800,000 how does the younger Mr. Novstrup’s 30% of that arrive at $67,400,000? People should have these amendment things calculated out right.

  3. grudznick 2016-03-01

    There was a fellow who was yelling a lot about things that didn’t make a lot of sense. It could not have been Mr. Bolin because he is on the other side of the legislatures. He seemed very angry. Who was that fellow?

  4. Jenny 2016-03-01

    I have been very impressed with Sen Troy Heinert after watching him speak this year. SD Dems keep him in mind when looking for someone for higher office. He seems quite intelligent and articulate. He is not afraid to put the extreme right wingers in the legislature in their place. This guy has it.

  5. Darin Larson 2016-03-01

    Preach on Owen Reitzel! How does a legislator sleep at night when they in the Republican caucus have created, supported and maintained one of the most regressive tax systems in the country, but now complain about that system as if they just discovered it? Puke is right!

  6. grudznick 2016-03-01

    Mr. reitzel, do you really think the Governor would listen to Ms. Olson? I would be surprised. She seems insaner than many. I think the fragments are breaking away now and will become even more like free radicals.

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-03-01

    Owen, I agree that the tears shed by the Novstrup caucus today seem not to cohere with the policy positions they’ve taken on nearly every other bill over the last 30 years.

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-03-01

    Jenny, I agree. Rhetorically, Senator Heinert is the opposite of David Novstrup. Senator Heinert speaks with force and charisma. He can command attention. And when he enters a verbal fight, he doesn’t sound brittle and defensive; he sounds like someone you don’t want to mess with.

    Senator Heinert also uses Lakota well in his speeches. We should hear more from him.

  9. Kim Conlin 2016-03-01

    I would get behind a Troy Heinert candidacy for Governor! So very impressed by his Senate speech today! So very proud of Sen. Bernie Hunhoff D-18 of Yankton!

  10. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-03-01

    Grudz, you may have been hearing Senator VanGerpen. I really did like VanGerpen’s speech—very Bolinesque, nice literary structure… and numerous references to big stones.

  11. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-03-01

    Grudz, I’m working with the Governor’s number of $107.4M from the half-penny.

  12. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-03-01

    Kim, I could second that nomination, as long as you assure me District 26 will send up a replacement for Senate as good as Heinert.

  13. grudznick 2016-03-02

    According to my South Dakota math, if half a penny brings in 107.4 million the a full penny brings in 214.8 million. And 3/10 of 214.8 is 64.4.

    Unless there are some complicated math iterations of less potato chips being eaten by lottery players as the tax goes up that I don’t understand. But I’m pretty sure Novstrup the younger wouldn’t understand them either.

  14. Darin Larson 2016-03-02

    Novstrup- “Don’t take a no vote on this bill as anti-education. We all want to do the best for our kids and the educators teaching them. We just disagree on how we fund it.”

    Yes, we sure do disagree on how we fund it! Most Democrats and some moderate Republicans think that education funding should be job #1. Mr. Novstrup and his ilk have treated education funding like the runt of the litter.

    Where were the innovative funding ideas and thoughts of “we can find the money for education” when education funding was cut by 10% at the state level (8.6% overall) in FY2011? Where was the funding for education as state budgets have risen tremendously over the last ten years but education funding grew much slower than the rest of the budget? Where was the funding for teacher pay increases when the state was doing market rate studies for state workers to support increased pay for state workers? Where was the funding for teacher pay increases when state worker pay rose 4.1% per annum and teacher pay rose 1.8% per annum over the last ten years? Where were the proposals to increase funding for education when the legislature raised taxes last year for road maintenance? Where were the proposals to increase education funding during the last five plus years when school board members, superintendents and educators have loudly voiced the concerns that education is underfunded in South Dakota?

    It was only when a tax increase was proposed by the governor that these folks got serious about education funding. It is hard to take folks like this seriously given their track record.

  15. Darin Larson 2016-03-02

    Phyllis Heineman said yesterday if you have the will to find the money for education in the budget you can. I agree, Ms. Heineman, you have had 10 years to find the money for education in the budget and you have not. You did not make it a priority and now 1182 does.

    She is so behind the curve on this issue.

  16. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-03-02

    Right on, Darin! Senators Heineman and Novstrup have lacked the will to fund competitive teacher pay for their entire tenures in the Legislature. Their NO votes yesterday aptly summarize their feelings toward public school teachers. Senator Novstrup can’t call black white and make it white: he and Senator Heineman do not support paying teachers what they are worth.

  17. Rorschach 2016-03-02

    David Novstrup is a nice shy kid, but perhaps the least influential member of the legislature. He’s just there as Al’s second vote.

  18. Darin Larson 2016-03-02

    Watching the tape of yesterdays 1182 debate in the Senate, the opponents are a parade of apologists for low education funding. At best, they are ignorant of the laws of economics and the value of education. At worst, they are actively working to undermine the public education system.

    Brock Greenfield-
    “We haven’t restored the funding to education [since the cuts of FY2011]. I recognize the folly of our ways over the past few years and frankly I think that we all owe a bit of an apology to our education community as such.” But has he done anything to rectify the situation? No!

    But Brock Greenfield went on to say that “we can find the .3 percent or whatever the dollar figure is within the budget. . . maybe its 3 percent. If somebody could run the numbers I’d appreciate it.” He’s a man with a plan.

    He’s a son of two teachers and works with them most everyday. Therefore, he votes against 1182. It makes perfect sense. . . .

    I think we need to increase the pay for legislators because we seem to be getting people in the legislature that are not acquainted with logic and reason.

  19. O 2016-03-02

    I look forward to next year’s session when the senators from this caucus within a caucus (who retain their seats) will come together to complete the work they discussed here by ending SD’s recessive taxation. When there is not a specific program, they can look at the WHOLE state budget and move us toward a fair and sustainable tax base that moves the burden of taxation from the poor. SB1 I presume will be that bill from these senators on day one.

  20. Paladn 2016-03-02

    Darin L:

    I appreciated the comments! Well done.

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