PIERRE, S.D. – South Dakota lawmakers approved a half-cent sales tax increase to fund teacher raises in a second vote after failing to pass the measure by one vote last week.
“I’ve got news for you people, a large segment of our population in South Dakota cannot” afford a sales tax hike, South Dakota state Rep. Elizabeth May, a Republican, argued in opposition to the tax Monday afternoon, according to the Argus Leader.
Legislators in the state House Monday deliberated a proposal floated by Gov. Dennis Daugaard to increase the state’s sales tax by a half a cent in an effort to boost average teacher pay to $48,500. Currently, South Dakota has the lowest teacher pay in the country, and lawmakers hadn’t approved a sales tax increase since 1969, the news site reports.
Daugaard’s proposal would generate an estimated $107 million in fiscal year 2017, $62.2 million of which would go toward teacher salary increases. Another $5 million would be spent on teacher mentoring and distance learning. Daugaard proposed to put the remaining $40 million toward property tax relief, though an amendment would peel $3.2 million off to boost technical school instructor salaries specifically.
KDLT reports representatives voted 46-23 Thursday in favor of the proposal, one vote short of the two-thirds majority need in South Dakota to approve a tax increase.
Supporters of the bill rallied for another vote today, and at least one lawmaker – Rep. Scott Craig – vowed to change his vote in favor, according to the news site.
At about 3:45 p.m., the House took another vote and approved the measure 47-21, Argus Leader reporter Dana Ferguson live tweeted from the Capitol.
According to the Argus Leader:
The measure took a long road to the ‘Yes’ vote Monday. It was stalled twice on the floor using a procedural rule then fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass out of the House on Thursday. Lacking just one vote necessary to advance the measure, lawmakers voted to have it reconsidered.
Now with two-thirds approval, the bill moves to the Senate where it is likely to pass.
Two lawmakers, Craig and Rep. Joshua Klumb opted to vote for the tax increase after initially voting against it. One lawmaker, Democratic Rep. Dennis Feickert, changed his vote from ‘yes’ to ‘no.’
Opposition to the tax increase centered on concerns about increasing sales tax on the poor. South Dakota’s current sales tax is 4 percent.
“The real problem is not our revenue, it’s our priorities,” Republican Rep. Thomas Brunner told the Argus Leader. “I don’t think this is going to solve our problem.”
Rep. Jacqueline Sly, a Rapid City Republican, told the site a Blue Ribbon Task Force studied the state’s teacher pipeline problems for months and concluded a tax hike was the best solution.
“Our state knows we have a broken system,” Sly said. “And we have a way to address the broken system.”