Democrats aren’t the only ones razzing Governor Kristi Noem for seeking political points with a flip-flop promise to copy their plan—not to mention the initiative proposed by Dakotans for Health for the 2024 ballot—to repeal the state’s 4.5% sales tax on food. Republican Representative Chris Karr (R-11/Sioux Falls) agrees that repealing the food tax would be great but wonders why Noem fought this helpful tax cut when he backed it just seven months ago:
“It’s really frustrating that this could have happened sooner. It’s frustrating when we faced opposition during session with folks that are Republicans saying that it was irresponsible to provide that tax relief,” Karr said [Annie Todd, “‘A Desperate Political Stunt’: Lawmakers Slam Gov. Kristi Noem’s Proposed Tax Cuts on Food,” Sioux Falls Argus Leader, 2022.09.30].
And Senate boss Lee Schoenbeck (R-5/Lake Kampeska), who has publicly cast doubt on the veracity of Noem’s feeble claim that she actually privately supported the food tax repeal in February, is still a hard Nay on the policy itself:
Lee Schoenbeck (R-Watertown), the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, wrote in a text message he didn’t support the tax cut.
“When you consider the responsibilities the state has under the Constitution to fund K-12, a state workforce, and nursing homes and Medicaid, plus a new women’s and men’s prison, cutting state revenue would be irresponsible,” he wrote [Todd, 2022.09.30].
Interestingly, the radical rumpists who’ve been challenging both Schoenbeck and Noem are cheering Noem’s flip-flop:
Members of the South Dakota Freedom Caucus are applauding Governor Noem for her recent commitment to repeal the grocery food tax this week despite making comments earlier this year that she was concerned about making any tax cuts.
…“It’s a pleasant surprise,” said Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Aaron Aylward, “we’re happy to see the Governor have a change of heart to help some of our less fortunate families and children that are the most adversely affected by this type of taxation scheme” [South Dakota Freedom Caucus, press release, 2022.09.29].
Given the Freedom Caucus’s express of support, maybe Noem’s tax-cut promise is as much about shoring up her radical conservative base as it is about buying votes from voters with shorter attention spans who may not notice her flip-flop endorsement of a Democratic proposal she has resisted for most of her time in office.
As Rep. Karr says, if the Governor were really serious about helping families in need, she’d have recognized that need much earlier and supported the food tax repeal when legislators offered it to her. If that need is so great, she wouldn’t wait until after the election. She’d call a Special Session right now and put Schoenbeck on the spot while the issue is hot and while a lot of incumbents would feel awfully queasy about voting against a tax cut for every eating South Dakotan just a month before an election.