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Hansen, House Republicans Willing to Repeal Food Tax; Schoenbeck, Senate Republicans Refuse to Cut Tax on Your Groceries

In the South Dakota Legislature, we Democrats measure success by how long it takes for our good ideas to be defeated.

On Monday, Representative Jon Hansen (R-25/Dell Rapids) finally used his hoghouse powers for good.  On the House floor was Senate Bill 117, which started out as Senator Lee Schoenbeck’s (R-5/Lake Kampeska) reasonable idea to eliminate the Board of Regents’ annual “we’re not challenging white privilege” report, but got hoghoused in House State Affairs last Thursday to resuscitate Governor Kristi Noem’s dumb idea to give corporations an unnecessary fee break. Hansen actually seconded that hoghouse motion in House State Affairs, but yesterday, he undid that hoghouse with another hoghouse, the good one. He moved to erase the title and contents of SB 117 and replace them with a great Democratic idea, repealing South Dakota’s tax on food.

Republican Rep. Jon Hansen, of Dell Rapids, says the state has $90 million in ongoing revenue that is unspent.

“The question becomes what are we going to do with it?” Hansen says. “Are we going to spend every last dime? Or are we going to take the opportunity to the people? I just think we should allow the people to keep more of their tax dollars. It’s what’s best for families and individuals.”

State officials estimate removing the food tax will save taxpayers $82 million a year [Lee Strubinger, “House Votes to Remove Food Tax,” SDPB, 2022.03.07].

Democrats have tried to repeal the food tax over and over, and over and over Republicans who love to cut taxes have refused to cut this tax.

But this time a Republican proposed repealing the food tax, and a majority of Republicans acted like Republicans and voted to cut this tax. 36 Republicans voted for Hansen’s hoghouse motion, enough to pass a motion and a bill without any of the 8 Democrats who voted aye. Then three more Republicans (Schneider, Blare, Drury) who voted no on the hoghouse motion switched and voted aye on final passage (evidently they’d have preferred to give corporations a tax break, but with that idea off the table, they figured any tax break is better than no tax break, even one that benefits poor people right along with rich people). The final vote on the sales tax repeal was 47–22, which—hey! That’s two thirds! That’s enough votes to overcome a veto!

Alas, Senator Lee Schoenbeck denied us that chance to test the House’s overriding mettle. With SB 117 back to the Senate floor, Senate President Pro-Tem Schoenbeck moved to reject his pal Jon’s changes and let the bill die without a conference committee. Democratic Minority Leader Troy Heinert (D-26/Mission) tried to send the food tax repeal to conference committee, but the Senate went with King Lee, who’s more interested in building more prisons than lowering your grocery costs, and voted 22–9 to bust up the House’s lusty embrace of this great progressive tax cut. The nays this morning included the three Senate Democrats and six Senate Republicans.

Democrats nonetheless took heart in seeing their banner idea rally a rare bipartisan coalition and make it out of committee:

But Democrats — albeit briefly — reveled in seeing a longtime priority debated on the House floor.

“Boy, we’ve talked about this a lot in the last six years, but it never seems it makes it out of committee,” said House Minority Leader Jamie Smith, D-Sioux Falls. “It’s the most regressive tax we have” [Christopher Vondracek, “Repeal of Food Sales Tax Rejected by South Dakota Senate,” Mitchell Republic, 2022.03.08].


Senator Reynold Nesiba, D-Sioux Falls, sponsored the repeal this year that the Senate committee killed. He tweeted Monday night, “This amended bill will of course need to go to a conference committee. I think this is the first time a food tax cut bill has made it out of either chamber. But I’ve only been following this since I testified on a similar bill in 2004” [Bob Mercer, “S.D. House Strips State Sales-Tax off Food,” KELO-TV, updated 2022.03.08].

22 Republicans voted this morning to keep taxing your peanut butter sandwiches. But Hansen’s good hoghouse of SB 117 and the House’s two-thirds vote in favor show that, if we catch some Republicans in the right mood, even some archly right-wing Republicans whom we might not usually turn to for support, Democrats can get Republicans to vote for some sensible Democratic ideas.


  1. John 2022-03-08 18:09

    The SD legislature best do something to rollback sales taxes.
    Before the pitchforks come out.
    Property tax assessments are arriving with the cheerful increases of 13 to 20%.

    This is less paying for essential government services, and more wealth transfers to the “special projects” of the political connected.

  2. Mark Anderson 2022-03-08 18:15

    Come on Cory, if they free people from paying taxes on their food eventually they’ll have to let Democrats play at Sutton Bay.

  3. O 2022-03-08 18:31

    If House Appropriations were to put together an wholistic budget — a full view of how the state spends and raises revenues — this could have had a chance of surviving as part of that package. Everything from the House jsut seemed ad hoc and I’m not sure anyone knows how all those pieces would fit together. Most frustrating is that an entire legislative session went to waste campaigning and politicking instead of thoughtfully resolving issues like this.

    I would like to see the tax burden made a bit easier for our poor and working poor, but I fear that in very short order, the removal of tax from food would soon be offset by reduction of other government services they rely on to get by.

  4. Bonnie B Fairbank 2022-03-08 20:21

    Was at Lynn’s DakotaMart this morning using their copier for SSA documents when I heard a woman kvetch to her male partner “OMG DuWayne, we shoulda gone to Nebraska for all this f*ckin’ food.” I assume NE does not have sales tax on food, but it’s more than sixty miles to the Chadron Walmart and we’re in a bad snow storm. I guess Ms. Braintrust doesn’t figure in gasoline costs.
    Yeah, I know this is heresy, blasphemy, apostasy and probably polygamy, but Our Mighty and Glorious State needs a state income tax. My property taxes are currently 2.5 times what mine were in Denver for 1/3 of the house I had there.

  5. grudznick 2022-03-08 20:21

    Let us be honest here. Those who eat fine breakfasts can afford to pay a percentage of their breakfast as a tax. Those who by fancier beers than those fellows on the welfare pay that fee on their more expensive beers. Those fellows who buy those big honking trucks pay the tax on their more expensive trucks than the little tree hugger mini-suv or whatever those soccer mom cars are called today. Super-Us or something. And this is all fine.

    If I buy the fancy taters in a can over the cheap ones, then I pay the tax on the more expensive can. It is really quite simple. The fellow who buys the cheap can of taters pays less. That’s almost unfair.

  6. grudznick 2022-03-08 20:24

    Ms. Fairbank, I too would enjoy a great drive to Nebraska, but Mr. Biden has really jacked up our gas prices.

  7. Mark Anderson 2022-03-08 20:45

    Let’s be honest Grudz, your taxing.

  8. John 2022-03-08 21:13

    grudz, math is challenging, eh? Get dropped on your head in 5th grade?
    I have a 5.5-6% COLA on a fixed income. Taxes increase 14.3%. My breakfast is coffee and 3 ounces of yogurt. Afterward I have one meal a day. My ‘big honking truck’ is an ’06 Tacoma. Since when does the president control gas prices?! Biden approved more domestic drilling permits his first year than did trump. The selfish oil companies hold >9,000 approved unused permits, thousands of leases — they are not using, while they spend billions buying back / inflating their stock prices. They have thousands of others where they ‘drill the well then cap it to save the lease’. It’s a game. They think you’re stupid. Certainly the senate is falling for it. Since it’s math; it likely that it also challenges you.
    The SD legislature and county commissioners FORGOT what fiscal conservative means. They best re-find it before finding the voters pitchforks.

  9. sx123 2022-03-08 22:28

    I don’t think groceries should be taxed, at least not fresh fruits, veggies, unprocessed meat, eggs, milk, flour (staples), etc. for starters.

    If tax revenue must be preserved, eliminate taxes on these and bump taxes on processed food.

  10. Jad 2022-03-09 08:34

    Maybe South Dakota should be labeled as a tax and spend state. This legislation group sure seems to be doing that.

  11. Ryan 2022-03-09 09:16

    grudz the goats are on the move, headed your way. doubt you’ll need to drive anywhere, just hop on one of your many trophy goats and you’ll get where you’re going.

Comments are closed.