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State Democrats blame Noem administration for failure to repeal tax on groceries

(South Dakota Broadcasters Association) Democratic legislative leaders say Republican Gov. Kristi Noem is to blame for failing to pass her campaign promise to take the sales tax off food.

They say the lack of gubernatorial news conferences to sell her plan to the public and her failure to engage legislators before the vote led to the defeat.

The House Appropriations Committee defeated HB 1075, 8 to 1 Tuesday, sending it to the 41st Legislative Day.

“The Governor hasn’t been at a press conference in seven weeks,” said Democratic House Minority Leader Erin Healy from Sioux Falls today (Thursday). “She could have been promoting it. The Governor was not willing to advocate.”

Rep. Healy said Gov. Noem tried to “bully” her fellow Republicans to vote for her bill.

“That’s not acceptable,” she said.

Republican leaders said it is because of Gov. Noem’s prudent budgeting and leadership that legislators can consider historic tax cuts, such as reducing the state sales tax from 4.5 to 4.3 percent.

HB 1137 would save taxpayers $104 million if it passes the Senate and the Governor signs it.

That measure passed the House Wednesday 66 to 3.

Also, a governor being rebuffed by their party is not unusual, Republican leaders say.

“It’s not unique,” said Republican Senate President Pro Tem Lee Schoenbeck from Watertown. “The Governor has a better relationship with legislators than she knows. (Gov.) Mike Rounds hated us.”

Republican Senate Majority Leader Casey Crabtree from Madison says Republicans and the Governor have different methods to get to the same place.

“We are working on the same goal,” Sen. Crabtree said. “There’s no animosity. The Governor has a couple of hundred wins (in the session). She’d be going to the hall of fame.”

Republicans hinted that the Senate might have other ideas about the best approach to cutting taxes. 

Those include a property tax reduction, a sales tax reduction, or an end or reduction of the sales tax on food. 

Both sides say that at this stage of the legislature, nothing is truly “dead.”

The Democratic and Republican leadership held their weekly news conferences this morning (Thursday).

SDBA News has sent a request for comment to the Governor’s Office and is awaiting a response.