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Westra Leads Opposition to Mickelson’s IM 25 Tobacco Tax for Vo-Techs

Guess who wants to defeat Speaker G. Mark Mickelson’s tobacco tax for vo-tech tuition support, Initiated Measure 25, on our November ballot?

None other than Mickelson’s old District 13 House seatmate, Steve Westra.

Steve Westra v. G. Mark Mickelson
You wanna go rounds, buddy? Westra v. Mickelson on IM 25!

On April 20 Steve Westra filed a statement of organization for “South Dakotans Against Higher Taxes,” a ballot question committee dedicated to opposing IM 25. On April 23, Westra filed a second statement of organization changing the name of his treasurer from “Dawn Leitzke” to “Dawna Leitzke.” (Leitzke is a registered lobbyist and exec of the South Dakota Petroleum and Propane Marketers Association.) On May 1, Westra filed a third statement of organization to change his treasurer’s e-mail from her address to her new campaign address, He also larkishly changed the spelling of his committee’s Pierre mailing address from 320 E. Capitol Avenue to 320 E. Capital Avenue. On May 2, Westra filed his fourth statement of organization to restore the correct spelling of Capitol Ave.

Now that Westra is quadruply organized, we can look forward to seeing his pre-primary report, which will tell us how much money he’s raising to, per his statement of purpose or goals, “Oppose higher taxes on South Dakotans.”

Westra’s opposition to higher taxes on South Dakotans has a checkered past. In 2013, Westra signed a Grover Norquist pledge not to raise taxes and then voted with Mickelson to raise property taxes for schools. He joined Mickelson in voting for the big $85-million road tax increase in 2015. He served with Mickelson on the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Teachers and Students in 2015 but then finally broke with Mickelson in 2016 and resisted the $100-million sales tax increase (with roughly $40 million in commercial property tax relief) that the Governor pushed through as a result of that task force’s labors.

The tax hike at stake in IM 25 is maybe $20 million in new revenue transferred from smokers to our vo-tech schools. Hearing the former District 13 House colleagues, Republicans both, debate the merits of this tax hike should be fascinating.

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