SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Gov. Kristi Noem stood in a South Dakota grocery store on Thursday and made a promise to push for a repeal of the state sales tax on groceries, if she is re-elected.

This is a new public cause for Noem, but one that members of the state legislature have been attempting to pass for years.

State Sen. Reynold Nesiba (D-Sioux Falls) has sponsored or co-sponsored such bills in at least four of his six years in the state legislature, but says his first experience with a bill to reduce or remove the sales tax on groceries was all the way back in 2004.

“The first time I was ever in the State Capitol was in 2004. Republican Ron Williamson had a bill to phase out the sales tax on food over four years — and I went as an economist to talk about regressivity,” Nesiba said.

Nesiba says the sales tax on food is unfair because low income people pay a larger share of their income in taxes. “My understanding is that even in this last session, that the governor has plans to spend $600 billion on prisons and she wanted revenue to do that — so in her conversations with the state Senate, even though there was a bill to eliminate the sales on food that made it out of the House, when it got to the Senate side, she communicated to that caucus that they should oppose it,” Nesiba said.

More criticism followed from Nesiba, who said he sees Noem’s move as a cynical attempt to change her mind on the issue.

“Governor Noem has been governor for four years. She could’ve addressed this,” said Nesiba. “The only thing she’s eliminated is a sales tax on bingo. To see this 41 days before the election just suggests to me that her political campaign is desperate.”

Nesiba clarified that regardless of the reason for Noem’s interest in repealing the tax, he is glad people are talking about it. He went on to talk about the bipartisan nature of the issue. “This started out as a Republican issue and then it was one that Democrats really took up — but I think there’s bipartisan support for it.”

No matter who wins the election for governor in November, Nesiba is optimistic about repealing the tax on groceries.

“Regardless of who the governor is, this is clearly going to be a bill that’s going to get introduced and debated,” he said. “We’ll have a question of whether we should remove the entire 4.5% or whether we should step it down over time.”

Nesiba, who teaches economics, also had criticism for Noem’s assertion that Biden’s national policies are responsible for inflation.

“It just doesn’t hold up to even a cursory understanding of what’s going on in the world. Inflation in the U.S. is below the inflation rate in the UK and the rest of Europe and in much of the rest of the world,” Nesiba said. “If Biden policies are so much more expansive and inflationary, you would see U.S. inflation being much higher than the rest of the world, and that’s simply not true. She wouldn’t pass my Econ 120 course with an essay answer like that.”