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July 20, 2012 06:03 PM

Will Budget Surplus Hurt Sales Tax Initiative?

Just this week Governor Dennis Daugaard announced South Dakota ended the budget year with a nearly 50 million dollar surplus. Many consider that good news but will it hurt other efforts to raise money for areas in the state's budget?

South Dakota schools took on big budget cuts in 2011, losing 6.6 percent of funding. And classrooms weren't alone taking a hard hit. That's why Moving South Dakota Forward stepped in with a possible solution.

"The penny sales tax is really a long term solution to our state's revenue problem," Andy Wiese said.

Wiese is part of the grass roots coalition that collected signatures to put Initiated Measure 15 on the ballot. If passed, the penny sales tax would raise around $180 million for education and Medicaid.

"It works to fill in the holes that we've seen and the decreased funding for two of our states most vital programs," Wiese said.

But, could the measure be in jeopardy of passing now that the state ended its budget year with a nearly $50 million surplus? Wiese doesn't believe it will.  Voters, however, aren't so sure.

"I think it will probably hurt it," Sioux Falls resident Linda Watts said.

Watts thinks voters may now see it as unneeded. But, Gretchen Jepperson can see the other side.

"If it's a penny sales tax I think we can all contribute, it's a minuscule amount when you really think about what it could contribute to our community," Gretchen Jepperson said.

As for Wiese, he says the surplus doesn't make up for what was lost and what doesn't guarantee any gain in the future.

"In my mind it's a non issue. We have to remember in 2011 K-12 public education and Medicaid saw cuts of approximately 120 million dollars and that's one year alone," Wiese said.

And whether voters agree, will be decided in November.

Wiese says the group will spend the next several months expanding their outreach efforts.

You can learn more about the group at movingsdforward.com.

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