Representative Phil Jensen (R-33/Rapid City) is mostly useless and occasionally harmful to good government. But every now and then, like when he leaked the transcript that showed the GOP’s “punishment” of its drunk Senate leaders in 2020 was a prearranged sham hearing, the Rapid City right-winger does something useful.
Representative Jensen demonstrated his occasional utility yesterday by calling for a Special Session to call Governor Kristi Noem’s political bluff and immediately repeal South Dakota’s sales tax on food:
During the 2022 legislative session, the South Dakota House passed Senate Bill 122, which would repeal the state sales tax on food, while allowing cities to maintain some local control on what they’d like to set for a local sales tax. That bill unfortunately died inthe State Senate. As we moved through the spring and into the summer, we saw a continuous rise in inflation, gas prices, and food prices, and consequently, a large number of people who are on fixed incomes and low earned wages, continued to get squeezed into unfortunate financial situations.
Thankfully, during the last week of September, Governor Noem made a public statement that she was committed to repeal the sales tax on groceries. The hard-working citizens of South Dakota have experienced a significant increase in the cost of groceries over the last year, seriously impacting their ability to provide for their families, and it’s time our citizens are able to keep more of their hard-earned money. South Dakota is in a great financial position but we need to remember that it’s not the role of government to hold onto the peoples’ money, but rather to provide them with the necessities of a limited government.
Senator-elect Tom Pischke (R-Dist. 25), Senator Julie Frye-Mueller (R-Dist. 30) and Representatives Phil Jensen (R-Dist. 33), Taffy Howard (R-Dist. 33), Tony Randolph (R-Dist. 35), Kevin Jensen (R-Dist. 16) Steve Haugaard (R-Dist. 10) and Aaron Aylward (R-Dist. 6) are asking their fellow legislators to provide relief for the people of this state and to call a special session for November 3rd, 2022 [Rep. Phil Jensen, press release, posted by Kesia Cameron, in “Rep. Jensen Calls for Special Session for Immediate Sales Tax Relief,” KSFY, 2022.10.11].
Note: Jensen cites the wrong bill. 2022 Senate Bill 122 was a cheap grandstand in which Jensen, Noem, and most of the rest of the Legislature feigned alarm about billionaires influencing our elections. Jensen meant to cite Senate Bill 117, which he and his fellow House Republicans hoghoused late in the Session into the food tax repeal that Noem opposed until Jamie Smith‘s poll numbers started looking good.
But that’s a minor stumble before Jensen’s brilliant leap of political cleverness. Governor Noem says South Dakotans “desperately need” tax relief, so why wait three months for the Legislature to convene in regular Session in January? Governor Noem isn’t proposing any complicated mechanism of tax increases or spending cuts to accommodate eliminating the sales tax on food; she appears to belief growth in overall tax revenues is enough to make up for this tax cut, so pish-tosh! to Senator Jean Hunhoff’s hand-wringing about needing to study the food tax cut more before enacting it. The time is right for cutting the food tax…
…and the time is made only righter by doing it five days before most people cast their votes for Governor and legislators. Representative Jensen and his merry band of mugwumps are offering Governor Noem a chance that any sensible candidate would leap at: five days before the election, sign a bill that makes everyone’s groceries cheaper. This is Governor Noem’s chance to follow Herbert Hoover in putting a cheaper chicken in every pot! (Remember: the sales tax cut would only apply to the chicken you cook in your own pot; rotisserie chickens and other prepared food will still cost you 4.5% state sales tax.)
Representative Jamie Smith (D-15/Sioux Falls) would sure like to vote for a food tax cut five days before the election. He plans to hold a press conference this morning saying he backs Representative Jensen’s call for a Special Session. Senator Reynold Nesiba (D-15/Sioux Falls) also backs a Special Session to repeal the food tax, as should every smart Democrat and every Republican who takes seriously their Governor’s claim to be interested in giving South Dakotans tax relief after four years of sitting in office doing no such thing.
If Jensen and Smith can rally two thirds of the members of each chamber of the Legislature to sign a petition [SD Const. Article 3 Section 31], this Special Session can happen. Of course, Governor Noem could call the Legislature into Special Session herself right now [SD Const. Art. 4 Sec. 3]. Don’t let the occasionally crafty Phil and surging Jamie steal your thunder, Kristi! Call that Special Session yourself… so it doesn’t conflict with any of your out-of-state campaigning!