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Noem Should Follow Ricketts Model: Support Weiland’s Petition to Put Food-Tax Repeal to Statewide Vote!

When Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts couldn’t get the Nebraska Legislature to pass a voter ID bill, he went stumping around the state in 2022 to promote a petition drive to put a voter ID initiative to a public vote. Thanks to funding from the Ricketts family fortune, Ricketts’s voter ID team was able to submit 172,000 signatures by the July 7 deadline, win official certification of its measure for the ballot on September 6, and win 65% of Nebraskans’ vote two months later. (I emphasize the timeline to remind everyone just how full of baloney Jon Hansen is when he says South Dakota needs to have petitions in by early March to allow proper review, but that’s another blog post!)

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem failed to get her 90% Republican Legislature to pass her signature 2022 campaign promise and “number one priority for the 2023 Legislative Session“: repealing South Dakota’s unusual food tax. Coincident with the Legislature’s refusal to repeal the food tax, Ballot question advocate Rick Weiland has announced that his ballot question committee, Dakotans for Health, will circulate its petitions to place a food tax repeal on South Dakota’s 2024 ballot:

Dakotans for Health announced today that it is submitting its Constitutional Amendment and Initiated Law petition forms to repeal South Dakota’s regressive tax on food to the Secretary of State for final approval. The group will begin collecting signatures in the coming days.

Co-founder Rick Weiland noted that Republican Governor Kristi Noem’s recent comment that she would sign Dakotans for Health Grocery Tax Repeal petition was welcomed news.

Said Weiland, “South Dakota has a rich history of voters taking matters into their own hands when the legislature fails to act or overreaches. We successfully referred and defeated extreme anti-abortion legislation, passed a minimum wage increase, kicked out payday lenders, legalized medical cannabis and expanded medicaid coverage. The failure of our politicians in Pierre to repeal the food tax this legislative session, something that both myself and Governor Noem agree needs to be done, means this issue now needs to be put on the ballot so that the people can decide,” he said.

South Dakota’s tax on food disproportionately affects working families, making it harder for them to access healthy and nutritious food. By repealing the tax, Dakotans for Health hopes to improve the health and well-being of all South Dakotans.

Weiland continued, “We are excited to take this step forward and put the decision on this important issue in the hands of the people,” said Weiland. “We find South Dakota once again on the side of just a few other states that continue to tax groceries. I agree with the Governor, we can afford to do this and need to do it now. We look forward to working with her and other leaders and organizations to make this a reality.

Dakotans for Health will be hosting events and reaching out to communities across the state to collect the necessary signatures to put a repeal of the state’s tax on groceries on the ballot in November 2024 [Dakotans for Health, press release, 2023.03.08].

Noem told KELO-TV last week that she would support Weiland’s initiative:

“It would be impossible for me to come out against it,” Noem said. “I think it’s the right tax at the right time. The legislature needs to realize if they chose a different tax cut this year, they better make sure they can afford the repeal on the sales tax on groceries in a couple years too. They’re going to have to do both” [Eric Mayer, “Noem Would Support 2024 Grocery Tax Ballot Measure,” KELO-TV, 2023.03.01].

With Dakotans for Health finally launching its petition drive, Noem can turn words into action on repealing the food tax by following Pete Ricketts’s example and throwing the power of her bully pulpit and her campaign war chest behind the Weiland initiative:

  1. When Secretary of State Monae Johnson approves the petition for circulation, Governor Noem should invite Rick Weiland to Pierre so she can provide the first voter signature on that petition.
  2. She can use her social media and public appearances around the state to encourage all of her supporters (that’s 62% of the 2022 electorate) to sign the petition. Republicans usually work hard to discourage voters from signing initiative petitions; Noem’s vocal backing could mute that opposition and help Dakotans for Health quickly collect the 17,509 signatures needed to place the food-tax repeal on the ballot as an initiated law or the 35,017 signatures needed to put the repeal on the ballot as a constitutional amendment.
  3. As of January 27, Noem had $2.7 million left in her gubernatorial campaign fund. Dakotans for Health reported just $96K on hand in its 2022 year-end report, with another $10K in Weiland’s affiliated Take It Back Advocacy committee. If Noem transferred just half of her campaign war chest to Weiland (still less than what Ricketts spent in Nebraska on his voter ID initiative), she’d more than tentuple the cash Weiland could pour into securing the signatures to put a food-tax repeal to a vote of the people.

Pete Ricketts showed that when the Legislature won’t approve a governor’s policies, a governor can use the bully pulpit and cash to rally the people to enact those policies. Governor Noem, now’s your chance to follow the Ricketts model and help the people get what the people want. Put on your democracy pants, Kristi, and give Weiland two signatures: the first signature on the food-tax repeal petition, and a signature on a big fat campaign check to help make your biggest campaign promise and the biggest tax cut in South Dakota history a policy reality.

7 Comments

  1. Jake 2023-03-10

    Great Concept, Cory. Only in Republican dominated South Dakota is there passage by GOP legislators of “tax cuts” that will be revisited in 2 yrs by the same legislature! Who do these clowns think they are fooling?!!

  2. cibvet 2023-03-10

    $3.00 savings on every $1000 I spend. Whatever will I spend my savings on?

  3. Arlo Blundt 2023-03-10

    She may as well….by her own admission she’s “not going anywhere.”.

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2023-03-11

    Imagine the impact on a petition drive of Signature #1 coming from the Governor herself. Imagine the boost a petition drive could get if Kristi Noem herself carried a petition and collected signatures at public events.

  5. Paladn 2023-03-11

    Love it Cory!

  6. O 2023-03-11

    So the sum total of the political capital Governor Noem wields in SD is her single signature on a petition drive. That’s perspective. As far as opening her purse to further the measure, I think the expectation would be that money flows the other direction in political relationships with this spokes model.

  7. grudznick 2023-03-11

    grudznick and Mr. cibvet are going to combine our savings from the first week of this tax holiday and purchase a draft Miller High Life beer to share with all of you.

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