Both the Democratic and Republican parties of South Dakota have declared themselves opposed to Initiated Measure 25, Speaker G. Mark Mickelson’s (R-13/Sioux Falls) proposed tobacco tax for vo-tech relief.
At their convention on June 16, Democrats declared themselves opposed to IM 25 because of the regressive and unsustainable nature of tobacco taxes. Democrats contend that if we must have tobacco taxes, those revenues should be dedicated to getting people to quit smoking and preventing others from starting. And while Democrats support our vo-techs, they say the state should focus instead on funding needs-based scholarships for all post-secondary education.
Here’s the text of the approved resolution, authored by Senator Reynold Nesiba (D-15/Sioux Falls):
RESOLUTION OPPOSING IM 25
WHEREAS, Initiated Measure 25 would increase tobacco taxes to provide funds for scholarships for students enrolled in a postsecondary technical institute in South Dakota;
WHEREAS, Initiative Measure 25 would not provide funds for scholarships for students who choose to attend a public or private nonprofit postsecondary university in South Dakota;
WHEREAS, tuition and fees for all postsecondary educational institutions in South Dakota have increased significantly in the past 10 years while the incomes of many low- and middle-income families have stagnated or declined;
WHEREAS, South Dakota’s sales and excise tax burden is well above the national average;
WHEREAS, Initiative Measure 25 would impose $35 million in additional taxes on consumers of tobacco products;
WHEREAS, excise taxes on tobacco products are highly regressive and impose a disproportionate burden on low-income consumers;
WHEREAS, tobacco tax revenues are steadily declining and are not a reliable source of funding for postsecondary education scholarships programs;
WHEREAS, smoking is a health hazard and tobacco taxes revenues should be used primarily to fund smoking prevention and cessation programs;
WHEREAS, to ensure that students from low- and middle-income families in South Dakota have access to affordable postsecondary educational opportunities, the state should increase funding for need-based scholarship programs;
WHEREAS, to ensure that South Dakota has a well-educated and well-trained workforce with a wide variety of technical and professional skills, state subsidized postsecondary education scholarship programs should be available to students enrolled in public and private nonprofit universities as well as technical institutes; and
WHEREAS, funding for state subsidized postsecondary scholarship programs should be based on a fair and reliable source of revenue, NOW, THEREFORE,
BE IT RESOLVED, that the South Dakota Democratic Party recognizes that South Dakota needs a well-educated and well-trained workforce, that students from low- and-middle income families need financial assistance with the cost of attending postsecondary educational institutions in South Dakota, including public and private nonprofit universities as well as technical institutes, and that Initiated Measure 25 does not adequately address these critical needs; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the South Dakota Democratic Party urges voters to reject Initiated Measure 25, and encourages the South Dakota Legislature to establish a need-based scholarship program that is available to students enrolled in any accredited public or private nonprofit postsecondary educational institution in South Dakota and to fund the scholarship program with a broad-based and reliable source of revenue [South Dakota Democratic Party, resolution opposing IM 25, approved 2018.06.16].
At their convention last week, Republicans shouted, Us too! and issued their own formal objection to IM 25. In contrast to the Democrats’ reasoned statement of principles and policy priorities, the Republicans raise bogeymen (waste! shutttered stores! lost jobs! smuggling!) to scare people away from Mickelson’s pet project:
IM – 25 RESOLUTION
Whereas, the South Dakota Republican Party supports workforce development, training and the education of ALL South Dakotans, and
Whereas, the South Dakota Republican Party supports affordable technical education and higher education for ALL South Dakotans, and
Whereas, the South Dakota Republican Party acknowledges the negative health effects of smoking and does not promote the use of tobacco products, and
Whereas, the South Dakota Republican Party is committed to lower taxes, and
Whereas, the South Dakota Republican Party believes in prioritized, responsible government spending, and
Whereas, the South Dakota Republican Party is committed to preserving jobs and protecting small businesses, and
Whereas, Initiated Measure 25 is a $35 million new tax on hard-working South Dakotans, and
Whereas, Initiated Measure 25 does not contain protections against wasteful spending or the diversion of the tax revenues it raises to other programs or the state’s general fund, and
Whereas, Initiated Measure 25 will hurt South Dakota retailers, potentially causing many to close and potentially leading to the loss of hundreds of jobs, and
Whereas, Initiated Measure 25 could lead to more cross-border smuggling of tobacco and an increase in contraband and smuggling-related crimes, now
Therefore, be it resolved that the South Dakota Republican Party urges a NO vote by all eligible voters on Initiated Measure 25 in the 2018 general election [South Dakota Republican Party, resolution opposing IM 25, approved 2018.06.22].
The very different reasoning the two parties’ delegates used to arrive at these complementary resolutions suggests some shakiness in Michelle Lavallee’s gentle positioning line that there’s not that much difference between Democrats and Republicans. But apparently even in their noteworthy differences, South Dakota’s Democratic and Republican parties have come to the same conclusion about IM 25: that Mickelson’s tobacco tax for vo-techs is bad policy.