SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Gov. Kristi Noem’s spokesman says Noem remains supportive of stopping the state’s sales tax on groceries but not through a proposed ballot measure looking to gain signatures to make the 2024 ballot.
A week after Noem’s budget commissioner told South Dakota News Watch there were concerns with the attorney general’s statement on a proposed ballot measure looking to stop the sales tax on groceries, Noem spokesman Ian Fury tweeted a statement clarifying Noem’s stance on cutting the sales tax on groceries.
“Governor Noem supports eliminating the grocery tax for South Dakotans – any claims otherwise by the media are false,” Fury said. “She supported it in the past, in the present, and will in the future. But that tax cut needs to be written appropriately.”
Fury called the language in the proposed ballot measure, sponsored by Rick Weiland and Dakotans for Health, “deeply flawed.”
Attorney General Marty Jackley’s statement on the two ballot questions says the proposed Constitutional amendment or initiated law could impact South Dakota’s obligations under a tobacco settlement agreement which came from legal action taken against cigarette manufacturers. These statements from Jackley go on to say that the state’s share of this agreement is roughly $20 million every year.
Fury also cited concerns of tax compliance agreements with other states.
Weiland issued a statement saying the wording of the ballot measure could be easily fixed if there’s a specific problem.
“The Tobacco Settlement does not prohibit a state from eliminating its sales tax on groceries. The 1998 Master Settlement Agreement is 280 pages long. What provision in it does the State claim might be affected? The State hasn’t said,” Weiland said in a news release. “If there is to be any rational discussion about this subject, we need to get beyond conjecture and the State needs to say what the alleged problem is.”
Weiland also suggested in the initiated law were to get on the 2024 ballot and pass, it could be amended by the legislature to fix any court ruling determining if it exempts tobacco or not from the state sales tax.
Those technical details with the specific ballot measure language is a change from what
Noem told KELOLAND News on March 1 at a bill signing event for Senate Bill 76 at Midwest Mechanical.
“It would be impossible for me to come out against it,” Noem said at the time.
Noem also pointed to voters using the ballot measure to pass removing the sales tax on groceries in testimony to lawmakers on the House Appropriations Committee and in a video criticizing the cut to the overall sales tax rate.
In past statewide elections, ballot measures cutting the state sales tax on food failed in 2004 and 1992.
Now Fury said Noem’s proposed bill on the issue did not have the same problems the ballot measure has.
“The Governor still supports a grocery tax repeal if done properly,” Fury’s statement said.
Weiland has called the grocery tax “regressive” and noted only three states tax groceries at the same sales tax rate without credits or rebates for lower-income families.
Both ballot measures officially titled “prohibiting taxes on anything sold for human consumption” have been approved to garner enough signatures to be placed on the 2024 ballot.
For the initiated amendment, 35,017 signatures are needed, while the initiated measure needs 17,509 signatures. Signatures are due to the South Dakota Secretary of State’s office by May 2024.