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Food Tax Notes: Bartels Pretends Voters Don’t Want Tax Cut, Dems Prepare Compromise, Alternative Revenue Awaits

A remarkable number of Republicans are not leaping onboard with Governor Kristi Noem’s embrace of the Democratic proposal to repeal South Dakota’s unusual and immoral tax on groceries. Speaker Hugh Bartels (R-5/Watertown) frames his opposition in a ridiculous misrepresentation of the popular will:

House Speaker Hugh Bartels said that when he has discussed the grocery tax repeal with the governor’s staff, his message has been that constituents are not calling for it.

“I’m waiting until the budgeting process is done,” he said, adding “You’ve got to weigh the option of unfunded programs and tax cuts” [Amancai Biraben and Stephen Groves, “South Dakota Governor’s Grocery Tax Repeal Hits GOP Pushback,” AP, 2023.01.17].

Is Bartels even talking to his constituents? A KELO-TV/Emerson/The Hill poll last October found 47% of voters supporting full repeal of the food tax and 32% supporting a partial reduction of the 4.5% tax. Only 22% of voters supported continuing to tax food the same as other purchases.

Apparently worried that Governor Noem is too busy campaigning for President to whip her caucus in line to support her signature campaign promise, the Democratic caucus has put forward two bills to appeal to balky Republicans and the 32% in that October poll. House Bill 1095 would tax food sales at 2.5%; House Bill 1096 would lower the food tax to 3.5%. Both bills are prime-sponsored by Democratic Representative Oren Lesmeister (D-28A/Parade) and Senator Reynold Nesiba (D-15/Sioux Falls) and have a light mix of Democratic and Republican sponsors. I suppose having back-up plans is nice, but given the chance to finally see a Democratic policy priority enacted after two decades of Republican resistance, Democrats should be pouring all their energy into getting the whole enchilada, not signaling that they’ll settle for just a few beans.

The Republicans counting beans and saying we can’t afford the $102 million to $124 million a year to cut the food tax could turn to the other tax breaks the state hands out. The state gives up $1.44 billion in tax revenue it could collect on agricultural equipment, livestock, cattle feed, fertilizer, semen, and other favors to special interests. That’s 14 times what Governor Noem says her food tax cut will cost. Surely the Legislature could find a few industries that could bear that tax burden more easily than the moms and dads buying peanut butter and Wonder bread for their kids’ lunches.


  1. Mark Anderson 2023-01-23 07:20

    Skip the wonder bread, Republican’s want to kill the IRS and establish a national sales tax of 23%. The wonder monkey’s will increase the tax on lower and middle classes and reward the top 5 percent. Do tell, we definitely need an off with their heads party wing of the Democrats. Let freedom ring.

  2. Kyle 2023-01-23 08:57

    Any poll that simply asks whether any tax should be cut, except a tax perceived as applying to only the rich, is going to have favorable results. I’m honestly surprised it did not poll better. Given the daunting supermajority requirement to raise taxes again, I would much rather see us not cut the food tax and the money put towards education and the nursing home reimbursement rate.

  3. Donald Pay 2023-01-23 10:11

    The discussion about taxes is full of gaslighting by everyone involved.

  4. P. Aitch 2023-01-23 10:16

    LIVING LIBERAL – SD could be sooooo much better.
    – Colorado’s new government-mandated, public option health insurance plan enrolled 25,000 people in its first year, about 1 in 10 of those who shopped on the state’s marketplace.
    – Why it matters: The Colorado Option, as it’s known, is a cornerstone effort by Gov. Jared Polis and Democratic lawmakers to lower health care costs. How the plan fares is drawing national attention.

    – The new Fair Elections Fund in Denver is changing the electoral landscape. Candidates who voluntarily cap donations at $500 — half the legal limit — can receive matching taxpayer dollars at a ratio of 9 to 1 on contributions of $50 or less. (If you donate $50 to a candidate that candidate will get $500) Small-dollar donations are making it easier for donors to spread their allegiances to multiple candidates. This is particularly true among big-name donors.

  5. Arlo Blundt 2023-01-23 11:07

    Don’t think an elimination or even substantial cut in sales tax is likely. Would like to see Medicaid expansion as number 1 priority but after a week, haven’t heard a word about it from the Governor or Legislature.

  6. O 2023-01-23 12:46

    I’m willing to bet that the other shoe to drop this legislative session is that the economy that the governor has touted as the best in the US is not only not, but not strong enough for any the tax cuts that have been put forward so far. After we pay the bills that have been promised and kept up with the new cost of living, and looked down the REAL road, tax cuts — be they food or property — may be a phantom of the wishful thinking of campaigning Governor.

  7. RST Tribal Member 2023-01-23 17:00

    US Representative Santos should come to SD for a lie-off competition with the governor and leader of the inept inbred republician party in SD. Sell tickets, invite stumping trumpier. Make it a major summertime show, even shot fireworks; anywhere but the shame of those stoned faces.

    It was known Gov Nome would make gestures for repeal of the regressive food tax, but the guys and gals in the Dumb Doom just let her humor the voters of SD in November. The repeal will come about only with a change in who controls the Dumb Doom, as the current party like taxing food as it keeps the less well-off just shy of the poor house while the better off don’t feel the food tax.

    March on to March, the sooner the better for SD.

  8. ABC 2023-01-24 13:44

    Democratic Lt gov killed the income tax in 1975.

    Now the Democratic Party wing of the Republican Party will vote for 2.5% sales tax on food instead of doing the right thing!

    Defund the Democratic Party. De-vote them too, they do 100% what the Republican Party wants. They are Vichy France.

    I changed my registration from D to Get Rich Party, which is Other.

    Other take over in 2024. Don’t vote Adam or Republican any more.

  9. larry kurtz 2023-01-27 07:05

    The nine tribes trapped in South Dakota will lose millions in revenue if the bill isn’t amended to address tribal communities. In Montana there are twelve tribal nations living on seven reservations. But, rabid Republicans in that state aren’t just fearful of government overreach; they’re frightened public lands now held by the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service and the US Forest Service will be remanded to the First Nations. Every federal department and agency already recognizes Native America as the 51st State so progress toward resolutions of Native trust disputes would have far more political traction after tribes secede from the States in which they reside and then be ratified to form one State, the 51st, sans contiguous borders with two US Senators and three House members as there are an estimated 2.5 million Indigenous Americans living on reservations.

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