They came to their senses on tax refund ballot

AT ISSUE: Here are some thoughts on some of South Dakota’s legislators wanting to pull the construction tax refund issue off the November ballot. Senate Bill 170 would have done just that. But in the last week there were cooler (smarter) heads that prevailed.

SENATE BILL 170, if it became law, would have killed an economic incentive bill that went on the books last year. Furthermore, the action would have removed the eventual referred measure from being decided by the voters of South Dakota at the November General Election. But let’s back up a bit.

The idea from the majority was to replace Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s Large Project Development Fund with a similar project that would not be subject to being referred to the voters of the state. Or, as Paul Harvey used to say, “Here’s the rest of the story.”

In last year’s legislative session the bill, known as HB 1230, established an economic incentive program giving huge, expensive construction projects several thousand dollars, even millions, to help lighten the financial load to the builder. This Republican plan so infuriated the minority Democrats they decided to take the new law to the voters of the state and set about collecting enough signatures to refer the incentive. Which they were successful in doing.

THIS UPSET the supporters of the plan so much they attempted to yank the incentive plan away from November’s ballot box. Needless to say, names were called and several legislator’s ancestry were brought into mind, if you get my drift.

When I first heard about the plan to get the incentive plan removed from the ballot I, too, used some four, five and six-letter words expressing my disappointment of trying to rob the voters of their right to referendum. As I have said before, the Referendum and its sister, the Initiative, should almost seem sacred for South Dakotans since this American form of the popular vote was started here in our state. And any attempt to take away this right is as wrong as wrong can be.

However, let me be perfectly clear. I am not expressing my support or rejection of the state government’s economic development incentive program here. What I am very much opposed to is the attempt to take away the voters’ right to decide since the minority followed the process to referral. But I also recognize the fact that there are two sides to almost every issue.

THE ONE side was so expressed in a blog, “In any open government every single dollar of taxpayer money paid out to anyone, should be made public to anyone who has asked for it. Any entity who asks for it. Any entity who receives money like this needs to understand that the public has the right to know. They need to understand this. One could only imagine the ‘under-the-table; misuse and abuse open to the most scrupulous in government.”

State Rep. David Lust of Rapid City, the House majority leader, later came to his senses and moved that Senate Bill 170 be tabled. His motion passed 65 to 1. I don’t know who that one legislator was.

Before Lust’s motion and the 65 whatchamacallits siding with him the bill had been amended several times. As amended, it also established a new economic incentive program. Last year’s bill established the funding source to come from 22 percent of the state’s annual contractors’ excise tax. Although that amount was lowered to 18 percent in SB 170, the money still came from the contractors’ excise tax.

I know this is about as confusing as was the little boy who dropped his gum on the chicken coop floor, but this legislation was complicated. Was this complication planned or did it just happen? That’s a good question to ask your legislators….

AS I UNDERSTOOD the main complaint about last year’s bill, it centered on paying for the economic incentive program with the excise tax, Lust said. And since that remained the funding source there wasn’t much interest in removing it from the voters right to cast their ballots for or against it.

I might note here that the Democrat legislators in last year’s incentive bill were upset, that’s putting it mildly, that the Legislature would set aside something like $17 million a year for big corporations while at the same time denying needed funding for education and health care.

The bottom line here is as a result, voters, come the November General Election, will have the opportunity to cast their ballots on several referred and initiative questions, two of which are on the incentive proposal as well as the one cent sales tax increase that would go for education and health care in addition to their regular budgeted funding.

P.S. I GOOFED! In last week’s answers to the history questions I said, “Come June 9, 1972,” the 40th anniversary of the Rapid City flood will be observed. It should have read 2012 instead. I drop on bended arthritic knee and apologize for my blunder. Several drew my attention to it….

1 Comment

  1. Stace Nelson says:

    There is even more to the story..  I had an amendment for this bill that would have gutted the original HB 1230 and made it instead an across the board tax cut.  When the Speaker of the House called for the debate on the bill, there was a long pause.  When no one asked to speak, and afraid they were going to move for the vote, I stood and requested to speak so I could move the amendment that was on everyone’s desk. At 2:28:28 Rausch illegally ignored me and called on Rep. Lust.  I point of ordered him and pointed out the requirements of Joint Legislative Rules 1.4 & 1.5 which require him to call on the first legislator who rises to request to speak.  He overruled the Point of Order claiming House tradition of allowing the prime sponsor to always speak first, Rep. Lust was not the prime sponsor or even a c-sponsor on SB-170.  Rep. Greenfield was the sponsor of the amendment that “Hoghoused” the bill to its then form on the floor. 

    Rausch’s comments that Rep. Lust was the prime sponsor indicate who really was behind the efforts to subvert the public’s right to a vote on the governor’s 2011 HB 1230.