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Noem Fails to Get Food Tax Repeal Through Committee

In the most stunning blow to Governor Kristi Noem’s agenda this Session, House Appropriations yesterday rejected Noem’s signature campaign promise to repeal South Dakota’s unusual food tax.

The Governor herself ventured upstairs from the Second Floor to testify for House Bill 1075, which would change the sales tax rate on groceries from 4.5% to 0%, before House Appropriations yesterday. She underscored popular support for repealing the food tax, as shown most recently by a poll her PAC paid for and released a few days ago. She spoke from the same table as long-standing (and, in the eyes of most Republicans, liberal) supporters of the food tax repeal like the Presentation Sisters, Cathy Brechtelsbauer, and Dakota Rural Action.

But the committee chose to heed the opposition testimony of the retailers and the (in this case hypocritical and wrong) tribes who said the state, municipalities, and tribes can’t do without the money they get from taxing people for eating. House Appropriations, including its sole (in this case hypocritical and wrong) Democrat Representative Linda Duba (D-15/Sioux Falls) voted to kill the food tax repeal. The committee voted instead to support Representative Chris Karr’s (R-11/Sioux Falls) House Bill 1137, which in amended form would lower the sales tax on everything from 4.5% to 4.2%.

That’s not the tax cut Noem promised. To get what Noem promised, we might have to turn to the initiative process, which Noem warned legislators about yesterday:

The Republican governor also warned Tuesday that a ballot measure being circulated by a group headed by Democrat Rick Weiland calls for the grocery tax to be repealed. She said that, given the support found for her proposal, Weiland’s would pass too in November 2024 and possibly put the Legislature in a tighter strait [Bob Mercer, “Analysis: South Dakota’s Tax Cut May Depend on Senate,” KELO-TV, 2023.02.21].

A tighter strait? Kristi, read the initiative: it’s the same grocery tax repeal as yours!

But hey, we’ve learned once again that if we want anything done in Pierre, we can’t rely on jetsetting Kristi Noem. Either we have to wait and see what Senate king Lee Schoenbeck wants—

The Senate’s president pro tem didn’t show his cards. “Looks like there’s going to be one vehicle. What’s riding in the vehicle in three weeks is to be seen,” he said [Mercer, 2023.02.21].

—or we’ll have to take to the streets to do the job ourselves.

Taxing folks for eating is the wrong way to fund a government. We need to repeal South Dakota’s food tax and seek more moral means to fund our state, local, and tribal governments.

But even Governor Kristi Noem, with a 62% voter mandate and 90% of the Legislature belonging to her own party, is unable to make that case. Her defeat on the food tax shows that while she knows how to win elections, she doesn’t know how to make and enact practical legislation.


  1. Richard Schriever 2023-02-22 07:24

    IIRC, Mrs. Noem was adjudged the least effective (and least engaged) congress critter (legislator) of all in the US House a few years back.

  2. Loren 2023-02-22 09:10

    “Signature campaign promise?” She might just as well have promised a Ferrari in every garage and free tickets to Disney World. Who actually thought her proposal was sincere, something she truly believed, and how many thought it was just campaign eye wash? Uh huh, thought so…

  3. O 2023-02-22 09:30

    Loren is right; the food tax breaks all connection between the idea that the voters put Noem into office with a mandate (or even an expectation) for governance. That is OK, because the Governor took office with the expectation to use that office to grab a few headlines to prove her conservative chops to move up the political food chain (to a FOX News show). It’s a fair deal when everyone feels cheated.

  4. Donald Pay 2023-02-22 10:54

    What is a signature campaign promise? It’s supposed to be something that distinguishes you from other candidates, sort of like your signature is different from other people’s signatures. It is generally signified by some sort of “Day 1” priority. For example if you google “signature campaign promise” up pops Trump’s Border Wall. Another one that pops up is the Republican “Repeal and Replace” promise on Obamacare. You might say, a “signature campaign promise” is something that is never supposed to be fully enacted, so it can remain around to agitate the base for a long time. Democrats have signature campaign promises,too., but they tend to enact them. Health care and infrastructure are big ones for Democrats. Trump also spout off on infrastructure. In fact, that he spent a lot of time advertising “infrastructure week,” but never delivering any infrastructure. Andrew Yang’s $1,000 for everyone was another “signature campaign promise.” But he didn’t win, so that signature didn’t matter.

    The thing is repeal of the tax on food was never a “signature campaign promise.” I didn’t believe she was serious from day one, and I don’t think anyone else was fooled. For one, this has been a “signature” South Dakota Democrat position for decades, pushed by many grassroots activists. It may have been a Noem campaign promise, but it was a poll-based and focus-group tested promise that had nothing of her signature on it at all. Noem did, though, put her particular signature on it: she abandoned it, when she had booty call with Lewandowsky, the only promise she keeps.

  5. Francis Schaffer 2023-02-22 11:02

    Well it will be interesting how this plays on her national stage. Republicans, I thought, are in favor of all tax cuts? It must have been helping all of South Dakota citizens and doing the morally correct thing was a bridge too far. Governor Noem isn’t much of an autocrat as she can’t even get ‘her’ minions in deeply red South Dakota to do her wishes.

  6. All Mammal 2023-02-22 11:07

    What a morally deformed politician. The sort that continues to vote for it give me the EBGBs. Just like that Ronald Regan western I caught a scene of the other day did. You could see the arrogance and racist hate in his heart and it wasn’t the acting.

  7. Vi Kingman 2023-02-22 11:24

    As you’ve said before Cory, if Noem can’t get her fellow Republicans to support her “idea” how can she do it on a national level?
    Everything that the Governor does is to raise her national standing. From the food tax to China. She has failed at both.

  8. John 2023-02-22 11:34

    Noem NEVER had a vision for her service. Rather, Noem’s vision was to further Noem’s selfish interest.
    The South Dakota voters are more malleable than are the Fox Entertainment viewers and Sinclair Broadcasting listeners. The former, South Dakota voters, are a mere more gullible subset of the latter.

  9. ABC 2023-02-22 12:04

    Democrats can not be relied on for anything, except they did vote against the sales tax on food!

    If sales tax on food passes in 2024 by the voters, the next Daugaaaaaard Noem robot will try to have the Legislature strip and zero it out.

    The Democrats are unreliable. They reliably vote Republican in Pierre.

    Fascist wing of the R Party is trying to kill food sales tax repeal, and the Democrats are aiding the fascist wing.
    Both D and R parties are thinking of oh state revenue state revenue, NOT what the people want!

  10. sx123 2023-02-22 12:49

    Possibly a problem with committees here. What is the consensus of non committee members?

  11. O 2023-02-22 13:12

    I take exception with one element of the discussion: the rejection of the food tax is part of a larger discussion that has the SD GOP rejection ALL tax cuts in lieu of paying for some seriously neglected social spending. I don’t see that as a bad thing. Putting money toward Medicaid expansion, shoring up education (and hopefully state employees and Medicare) instead of tax cuts seems against the grain of our GOP friends in the past and what we have lobbied out Democrat friends to champion over and over. I have to specifically disagree with ABC’s assessment in this not being “what the people want” from a broader view. We may have lost perspective of how badly emaciated our social safety net has become in SD; if we have support to make a real effort at mending large swaths of it now, I am all for that.ll

    If after the dust settles after ALL the bills are FULLY paid there is money still in the pot, then let the cut discussion flourish.

  12. Bonnie B Fairbank 2023-02-22 17:37

    We’re all bewildered and mystified.

  13. grudznick 2023-02-22 19:41

    Cut all the taxes, and strip government to the bone. That’s what a lot of fellows want.

  14. Mark Anderson 2023-02-22 19:56

    Come on, Noem’s made sure women’s sports will remain women’s sports. That’s what’s important.

  15. O 2023-02-22 21:23

    Cutting to the bone is what you sloganeers say, but you farm subsidy, EB4, Social Security, government contract collectors all want your pockets filled by a government fattened by us taxpayers.

  16. grudznick 2023-02-22 21:35

    Do you consider grudznick a sloganeer or a government fat collector, Mr. O?
    I am only curious.

  17. DaveFN 2023-02-22 22:24

    ““The narrative is going to be that the legislators in this capitol think they know better than the people in this state, and I would disagree. We have to always keep our perspective on the people here that keep this state running, and it’s certainly not policymakers who run around during session for 40 days,” Noem told reporters.”

  18. O 2023-02-23 08:02

    My dear Grudznick, America is the land of opportunity. I believe you have afforded yourself the ability to do both.

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