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AP News

SD House defeats constitutional amendment on taxes

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — The South Dakota House defeated a proposed constitutional amendment that would have required two-thirds of voters to pass any ballot measure imposing a new tax or increasing an existing one.

If lawmakers approved the measure, voters in 2014 would have had to decide whether to change the South Dakota Constitution.

Representatives defeated the bill by a 35-34 vote Tuesday, then resisted an attempt by its sponsor, Rep. Charlie Hoffman, R-Eureka, to reconsider it later in the House floor session.

Rep. Jim Bolin, R-Canton, encouraged the bill's defeat in a fiery speech Tuesday afternoon. He said the measure was not about taxes but was an attack on the state's initiative process that lets the majority decide ballot issues.

"It's against our heritage and who we are in South Dakota," Bolin said.

A two-thirds vote is already required in the Legislature to pass a new tax or increase the rate of an existing tax, but ballot measures imposing or increasing a tax can be passed with only a simple majority in a statewide vote. The one exception is for bond issues, which require more than 60 percent of voter support because bonds can't be retracted, Bolin said.

The proposed amendment would require a two-thirds vote on any ballot issue that creates or increases a tax. It also would clarify that if a tax is expiring, a two-thirds vote would be needed to extend it.

"It'd be real easy to vote for this one because we have to do the same thing," said Rep. Mike Stevens, R-Yankton.

But Stevens said there's no issue on which residents agree more than their dislike of taxes, and legislators should trust the people and let them vote on the issues.

"We don't have to have a law to do this," he said.

Rep. Anne Hajek, R-Sioux Falls, argued that all the bill does is put the issue on the ballot, and it's time to allow the people to decide on what the standard should be.

But Rep. Susan Wismer, D-Britton, said separating the two issues is not the way democracy should work, and legislators should not force a future electorate to be subject to minority rule.


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