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2016: Mickelson Argues Voters Can’t Appropriate Money. 2017: Mickelson Asks Voters to Appropriate Money

Speaker G. Mark Mickelson
Speaker G. Mark Mickelson—now he trusts us to spend money?

Speaker G. Mark Mickelson (R-13/Sioux Falls) wants us voters to decide whether to raise our wholesale tobacco tax to reduce tuition at our regionally uncompetitive vo-tech schools. Speaker Mickelson has submitted two ballot initiatives to the LRC, one raising the wholesale tobacco tax from 76.5 mills per cigarette to 101.5 mills, the other raising that tax to 126.5 mills. Each measure would create a new “postsecondary technical institute tuition reduction and workforce training fund” (PTITR-WTF? Come on, G. Mark! You can do better than that…) to which $15 million to $20 million would be appropriated.

Wait—did somebody say “appropriated”?

An Act to increase the tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products and to appropriate the revenues.

Sure enough, that’s the title of each measure. And that’s exactly what Speaker Mickelson, in his lawsuit to overturn Initiated Measure 22 last year, said we cannot do by ballot initiative.

[R. Blake Curd et al. v. South Dakota, Count Five, paragraphs 54–58, 2016.11.23].
[R. Blake Curd et al. v. South Dakota, #32CIV16-000230, Count Five, pp. 11–12, paragraphs 54–58, 2016.11.23].
This argument traces back to LRC Director Jason Hancock’s July 29, 2015, comments to sponsors of IM22, in which he warned that IM22’s appropriations for Democracy Credits could run afoul of South Dakota Constitution Article 12 Section 2. Donald Pay and I don’t buy it, but Sixth Circuit Judge Mark Barnett did last December and used that “unconstitutional appropriation” as grounds for enjoining IM22 in toto. Speaker Mickelson subsequently cited that LRC warning in chiding IM22 sponsors and justifying the Legislature’s total repeal of IM22.

And now, strangely, when Speaker G. Mark Mickelson presents two initiated measures with provisions by which voters would (in Mickelson’s and Barnett’s minds, unconstitutionally) appropriate money, LRC Director Hancock says not one word about Article 12 Section 2. LRC only offers style and form revisions.

Speaker Mickelson, you know I’d be happy to help you lower tuition at our vo-techs. We need $13 million to get our tuition down to the regional average; get $20 million with that higher tobacco tax, and we can have the lowest vo-tech tuition in the region. And since I don’t smoke, I won’t have to pay a penny of it! Rock on!

But I don’t want to have my ballot cluttered with a sloppy initiative that your legislator and judge friends will just throw out again as unconstitutional. I want my vote to count!

So which is it, Speaker Mickelson? Can we citizens vote to raise taxes and spend money or not? Or can we only appropriate money for the things you want, not the things we want?


  1. grudznick 2017-06-20 19:51

    It seems to me Mr. Mickelson is wanting to raise a tax for a dedicated purpose. What is raised goes to that purpose. And grudznick says tax the heck out of those dirty smokers, I don’t care what the money goes for.

    What the heinous, unconstitutional, and sloppily written IM #22 did was create an ongoing appropriation directly from the general funding pot (to take my money and give it to politicians to pay for advertising, naughty naughty naughty on Slick Rick.)

    I suspect measures initiated can create revenue taxes that would go for a dedicated purpose like $0.02 a teat on milk cows going to the dairy farmer subsidy fund, or whatever. But the stupid public cannot just start appropping monies from the general fund helter skelter because the budget must be balanced and make sense. cents?

  2. Roger Cornelius 2017-06-20 21:50

    There they go again, those tax hating republicans raising taxes again.

  3. grudznick 2017-06-20 23:57

    Mr. C, this could simply be an example of the Speaker of The Legislatures knowing more about stuff than other people. Occam’s razor.

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-06-21 05:14

    Roger, you raise a point worth discussing further. Mickelson hasn’t hesitated to vote for other, far larger tax increases for roads and teacher pay. Why would he dodge on this smaller tax increase and shift responsibility to the voters?

  5. barry freed 2017-06-21 07:07

    Cory H said: ” I want my vote to count!”

    Then you’ll have to move to another State. Our ballot counting machines were, are, and will be hacked.
    Note that not a single politician, city, county, state, or national; nor any news source, local or national, is talking about securing our voting machines or voter rolls in 2018 from the Russians, Republicans, or Democrats.

  6. Dave 2017-06-21 08:11

    it wasn’t that long ago when the state did raise taxes on tobacco for the direct benefit of education… how’d that work out?

  7. Hank 2017-06-21 08:37

    This isn’t following on topic, but what is going to be done about keeping voters in the game? I listened to a group of folks in their 20s talking about how some of the first votes they have cast for ballot measures and initiatives have been overturned by the legislature. Based upon their conversation, I believe several of them have checked out and will not be voting again simply to have their wishes ignored and overturned. Personally, I often thought that I will always vote and try to work within the system, but I know there are several in this group who simply won’t vote again. If alienating voters was what was intended by our legislature, and I think it was, they have been very successful in marginalizing an entire demographic and my fear is that this feeling of disenfranchisement is more widespread.

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