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TenHaken Dealing with Problems of Growth, Almost Recognizes Need for Tax Reform

Mayor Paul TenHaken says Sioux Falls’s population increased by about 7,000 in 2022. So I guess the problems he sees arising from that growth are the kind of problems a city should be glad to have:

“Crime — how do we keep the community safe and continue to focus on public safety? Second, being infrastructure. How are we going to deliver services to more people in this community through wastewater expansion?…”

“We permitted more housing units this year than we ever have in the history of the city by far, so we’re trying to keep up and keep those housing units as affordable as possible,” he said.

…“We’re trying to deliver services. Build more parks, add more streets, treat more wastewater, in a time when doing all that is way more expensive than it’s ever been before. So that’s going to be a theme in the next year ahead is really smart fiscal management, smart fiscal responsibility with our limited, you know, low tax climate that we’re in and trying to deliver services to more people than we’ve ever had to before,” he said [Carter Schmidt, “TenHaken: Crime, Infrastructure, Housing Key Challenges for Sioux Falls in 2023,” KELO-TV, 2023.01.01].

Funny Mayor TenHaken should mention low taxes as a restraint on the city’s ability to respond to the inevitable challenges of growth. I thought the whole thesis of his Republican party’s tax minimalism was that growth pays for itself and that more people paying low taxes means we don’t have to raise taxes. But that’s not how it worked in California:

As population growth continued to increase dramatically in California after WWII, and as politicians continued to claim they were being fiscally conservative by not increasing the tax rate, reality set in and the truth surfaced. Ever-increasing population required ever-increasing local budgets for both capital improvements (streets, storm drains, police and fire stations, schools, parks, libraries, etc.) and for maintenance and operation expenses to manage and provide these city and school services. As a result, the existing taxpayers were required to pay ever-increasing property taxes with each passing year.

Some home owners who were retired and living on fixed incomes in this unsustainable fast-growth paradigm found that, after paying for their property and paying taxes for years, they were now literally being taxed out of their homes. Others were just beginning to wake up to fact that their property taxes were ever-increasing at the same time services were declining. Schools were overcrowded, traffic was becoming more congested, crime rates were increasing, air quality was decreasing, and in general the quality of life was declining.

These facts, along with the apartment owners of California who saw a quick way to improve their earnings by cutting their property taxes, helped to create the Taxpayers Revolution more than a quarter of a century ago. This caused the passage of Proposition 13, which reduced the property tax rate and set a fixed percentage for annual increases, effectively stopping the politicians from continuing to subsidize population at the expense of the property taxpayers [Jerry Harmon, “Who Pays the Cost of Growth?San Diego Earth Times, October 2001].

And for the whole decade between the Great Recession and coronavirus, states with no income tax saw slower economic growth than states with more legs to their fiscal stool:

Sean O'Leary, "States Without Personal Income Taxes Are Not Seeing Greater Economic Growth Than States with Highest Income Tax Rates," West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, 2021.01.12.
Sean O’Leary, “States Without Personal Income Taxes Are Not Seeing Greater Economic Growth Than States with Highest Income Tax Rates,” West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, 2021.01.12.

I’m just saying what Mayor TenHaken is hinting: Sioux Falls could pay for more cops, roads, sewer lines, and parks if South Dakota had a more sensible tax system that tapped our full wealth with an income tax. Smarter, higher taxes wouldn’t sacrifice growth; they would actually allow us to support more growth.


  1. Eve Fisher 2023-01-02 08:18

    This state desperately needs an income tax. States with a state income tax invariably do better, and provide better services, than states with no income tax who depend on the sales and property taxes alone. I know, I lived for a while in Tennessee (with no income tax), and the roads & services were crap, and wages were crap as well – and across the state line was Virginia, where the roads were great, the services were great, and the wages were much higher.

  2. Richard Schriever 2023-01-02 09:51

    The thing is “conservatives” don’t really want societal (as in population-wide or broad economic) growth. They are really only interested in the growth of their personal individual material wealth. You’ve got to know how to decode their lingo to understand them. It’s practically a second (foreign) language.

  3. Jake 2023-01-02 10:40

    Schriever is “spot on”!!! That is how we as a country get suckered by misfit deplorables like the former president with orange hair who was “in it” all for himself. Putting self first before country; serving one’self over country and caring less for society were most important. Rich care only for the rich. But, look somewhat skeptical at our advertising in this country; (which is ALL TAX FREE)–it attempts us all to lust for the latest and newest ‘gadget’ or ‘self-indulgence’ that advertising to us seems to infer that “everybody else” has got it themselves or does it…..

  4. All Mammal 2023-01-02 11:06

    SD mayors can blame the governor and themselves for their activism against cannabis. By putting the kiboshes to the weed industry, they turned down revenue for their city’s growth. They need to practice their own conservative mumbo jumbo by reducing their paid entourage. SD politics done gone Hollywood, which is a joke when we have a monopoly on childhood poverty and abysmal teacher pay. Selfish sh!theads.

  5. Donald Pay 2023-01-02 12:12

    Richard is correct. Conservative thought is centered around the individual, and not just any individual. It’s centered around “Me.” At most it can extend out to “people who are similar to me.”

    There are different types of conservatives, but in general a conservative will place his individual interest ahead of those interests of all other individuals or of the society as a whole. The different types of conservatives think a bit differently from each other, but “Me” is the operative word for all conservatives.

  6. P. Aitch 2023-01-02 12:15

    Dusty’s Down Wit It … 🎩

  7. Bonnie B Fairbank 2023-01-02 15:02

    All Y’alls (Texan speak blatantly eavesdropped at Bomgaars last year) are right and correct. I cannot add anything or say it better than you.

  8. Mark Anderson 2023-01-02 15:18

    Don’t worry, blue people pay their taxes.

  9. DaveFN 2023-01-02 17:08

    Richard Schriever and Donald Pay

    The more we attempt to express the distinction between us and them, the more sweeping our generalizations become to the point they say as much if not more about us than about them.

    Verum ipsum factum. —Giambattista Vico (1668-1744)

  10. jakc 2023-01-02 18:27

    Until SF grows enough to be dog wagging the tail, instead of being wagged by the rest of the state, you can’t expect major tax changes just because SF could benefit from them. What does Ten Haken expect? Part of the reason for the growth in SF is the larger perception of SD (which is to say SF and to a lesser extent Dakota Dunes) as a tax haven for Iowa and Minnesota. The modern Republican party seems to be an alliance of social conservatives and the small number of people who benefit from a regressive tax structure. I’m not sure how you break that alliance apart and wonder if TenHaken really want to do that, or if he will simply find a number of regressive fees to pay for costs.

  11. larry kurtz 2023-01-02 19:08

    The influence the Diocese of Sioux Falls has on politics and policymakers in my home state cannot be ignored.

    Follow the money.

  12. grudznick 2023-01-02 20:02

    Mr. E is a good looking if not dwarifish dork, Lar, and he knows where to get a decent dinner in Sioux Falls.

  13. larry kurtz 2023-01-02 20:36

    Scott Ehrisman is an Adonis like Pat Powers is a pinup boy.

  14. grudznick 2023-01-02 21:24

    Lar, I’ve warned you not to send me any more blue links to your “calendars.”

  15. All Mammal 2023-01-03 00:34

    Oh my hword..the dog ate the caviar again, darling.hnmm.

  16. Richard Schriever 2023-01-03 09:13

    Are the Dutch Reformed part of the whole prosperity gospel thing?

  17. jakc 2023-01-03 19:40

    Richard, it is hard to imagine any Calvinist group buying into the prosperity gospel. that definitely seems more of a Pentecostal thing

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