Editorial Roundup: South Dakota

Black Hills Pioneer. June 17, 2022.

Editorial: Storm damage can’t dampen neighborly spirit

Northern Hills residents watched Sunday’s storm moving east toward the Belle Fourche area before it unleashed its devastation.

Butte County residents watched it come straight for them. And as tornado and severe thunderstorm warnings sounded, many took refuge in their basements, or in the basements of friends and neighbors.

Baseball-sized hail and buckets of rain fell on the area. As residents left the shelter of their homes, most found at least some damage. Many saw the aftermath of what they heard – windows shattered by hail, trees and branches snapped or uprooted, and rain-sodden homes.

Cleanup, salvage, and boarding up of windows began. It wasn’t just homeowners doing the cleanup. Neighbors fortunate enough to escape severe damage helped those less fortunate. Families and friends from nearby communities drove into the storm-damaged area to lend a hand.

Have a tree down in your yard? It probably was bucked up in short order by someone with a chainsaw.

Don’t have a ladder to reach windows to board up? Likely one was set up at your home soon after and many times, it was the ladder owner up on the rungs hanging plywood or plastic sheeting.

And speaking of plywood, election signs made for the June 7 primary election were recycled when they were donated to the Belle Fourche Police Department to serve as window covering. Police helped elderly residents in need of hanging the plywood. Pioneer staffers saw signs for Tom Brunner placed over broken windows, and even “Rest easy with Hammock” signs from Dayle Hammock’s 2020 re-election bid for District 31 House of Representatives. Perhaps the residents with those signs over their windows can indeed rest a little better knowing their broken windows are covered.

One thing is for certain; we can all rest a little easier knowing we live in a region where your neighbor is just that, and not just someone you live next to.

Your neighbor is someone who can help you out when called upon, and quite often, they don’t even need to be called. They are there with tools in hand and supplies in tow.

That doesn’t apply to just this spring thunderstorm. Consistently, neighbors help neighbors throughout the year, shoveling or plowing snow, charging that dead car battery, watching our kids while we run an errand, or letting us borrow that cup of sugar.

Time and time again we hear of ranchers who, at their own cost, take their haying equipment to a neighbor’s field to cut and bale hay when the landowner is unable to.

They help each other out at brandings and so many other ranch activities.

It isn’t just rainbows that appear following a storm. It is also that neighborly spirit. And we are truly thankful for that.

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Yankton Press & Dakotan. June 20, 2022.

Editorial: It’s Time To Lift Food Tax In South Dakota

Current projections indicate South Dakota will see a nice surplus for fiscal year 2022 when those books close June 30.

And with that, it may be time for this state to finally embrace an idea that has been proposed for nearly 30 years and has recently been picking up steam: lifting the state’s regressive tax on food.

According to a report last week, the state’s revenues as of May were up $171.3 million so far for the fiscal year that began last July 1, representing a 9.6% increase from 2021. South Dakota Finance Commissioner Jim Terwilliger said the biggest gains have been the sales and use tax (+12%) and the state lottery (+9.4%), according to KELO.

If that rate holds up through June, it will mark the 11th straight fiscal year that state revenue has exceeded projections. Last year, the state was able to tuck $86 million into its reserve, WNAX reported.

Which brings us to the food tax, the repeal of which picked up momentum last session when, in the state House, several Republicans joined Democrats in voting to lift the state’s 4.5% tax on food purchases. The vote was 47-22, indicating broad support for an idea that has been swatted down by legislators since the 1990s and rejected by voters in 2004. However, the state Senate nixed the measure 22-9, then didn’t appoint a conference committee to deal with the proposal, thus killing it.

During last year’s House debates, it was estimated that the repeal would cost the state — or, if you will, save South Dakota consumers — about $82 million.

“The money is there. We can do this,” argued Rep. Jon Hansen, R-Dell Rapids. “It is prudent. It is responsible.”

But to no avail.

South Dakota is one of just 13 states that taxes food items. It’s considered regressive because it particularly hits lower-income households harder.

With South Dakota’s economy humming along — albeit with the help of COVID relief funds — it would seem time to finally lift this tax and give consumers a break.

It’s one that is particularly needed now, with inflation raising prices around the world and the Russian invasion of Ukraine further destabilizing the world’s food supply.

As Rep. Scott Odenbach, R-Spearfish, put it last winter. “If not now, when? If not us, who?”

Granted, there are uncertainties regarding the future — there always are — but lifting the food tax can reduce some of the burden on taxpayers, who will likely in turn spend that money on other items or services and add more to the state sales revenue. (This is particularly true among lower-income households, which generally have little choice but to spend that money, thus providing their own form of economic stimulus.)

South Dakota’s solid financial picture — which our leaders love to brag about — doesn’t mean a whole lot if lawmakers are unable or unwilling to put those benefits to good use for the people. This would be an ideal place to start, would it not?

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