Okay, so the state department of revenue just chooses to ignore a state law for decades (instead of just telling the legislature to fix it) Then all of sudden decides they must enforce it? Then says if you want to skirt the law, you can go thru a complicated application process for something you may do a couple of times a year? Then, the kicker, since they can’t tax people who receive free food (from food banks and churches) they have to tax the food these orgs are giving away? WOW! Talk about having to pay extra for a undercooked shit sandwich;

About 275 organizations statewide that give away food to needy people might be forced to pay a long-unenforced sales tax, prompting some to worry the agencies simply will stop providing food to the poor.

At issue is a handling fee that agencies pay to the organization that supplies them with food.

A state law outlining the taxes has been on the books for decades. But it wasn’t until late last year that an audit discovered the maintenance fees existed and needed to be taxed, said Jan Talley, director of the state’s Business Tax Division.

“We are charged with enforcing the statutes of South Dakota,” she said.

Your charged with enforcing a law that you haven’t enforced for decades? So instead of just getting the powers of be to fix it, you have to be the assmunch instead and enforce it? Seriously?! Pierre is freaking broken, and this is further proof.

But the best part is the Argue Endorser’s online poll today;


I would like to meet these clowns that think it is okay to tax orgs that give food to the needy. I have a sandwich I would like to feed them. And it’s not made of turds.


This is a guest post by Cathy Brechtelsbauer from the local chapter of Bread for the World

July 30, 2011. There’s another article in the Argus today on a proposed ballot initiative to raise the sales tax and we still can’t tell if it includes the sales tax on food. The initiative’s wording is not yet announced, but it is a cause for worry that two or three articles on the topic have not mentioned exempting food from the increase.

Planners of the initiative represent education and healthcare organizations. They hope to raise $175 million for education and Medicaid. Funds are needed because of cuts from the last legislative session and governor.

A 1% sales tax increase may seem like simplest idea for an initiative, but South Dakota’s sales tax applies to food! In 2010 each per cent on food (home food, not prepared food) raised an estimated $14 million.

Background info: The “streamlining” sales tax rules allow for tax rates on food and utilities to be different from the general sales tax rate, even zero percent. Lately some states have taken advantage of this and have been stepping down their food tax, like Arkansas. None of our neighbor states tax food. North Dakota has been phasing out the tax on home heating bills.

At least food be exempted in this initiative. By exempting food the tax increase would inflict somewhat less hurt on those the initiative is trying to help. There’s something strange about raising sales tax to help nursing homes: South Dakota nursing homes (unlike hospitals) pay sales tax on all of their food and supplies. A sales tax increase would cost them dearly and also unduly hit their workers, who are not exactly rolling in dough. An exemption for food would reduce the initiative’s negative impact. Similarly for the South Dakota teachers with incomes low enough that they too struggle to cover the basics for their families.

The biggest concern might be the impact on nutrition: child nutrition, senior nutrition, diet-related diseases. The food tax in South Dakota is already equivalent to three weeks worth of food in a year. Teachers too often see the effects of child hunger on learning. Child hunger is probably worse in summers without school meals. Relatively few kids make it to the summer lunch sites. Healthcare workers see how hard it is for people to eat healthy.

Healthy food is not necessarily the cheapest. (The states with the highest obesity rates are among the nation’s few food taxing states.)

You can add to those issues the impact of the food tax on already strained local food charities; regressive taxation; wealth disparity; potential shrinking of the safety net looming from federal budget cutters and cappers. And with an almost useless state food tax refund program, you can see why some of us will be unwilling to support a ballot initiative that raises the food tax, even though we care deeply about education and healthcare.

Better ideas for a sales tax initiative: Even if the initiative would forego the food’s portion of the tax ($14 million in 2010), it could still raise a big sum. Better yet would be a reduction in the food tax, however slight. Either of these approaches would signal a recognition of the struggles of nursing homes and ordinary families trying to put food on the table so their kids’ tummies aren’t growling when the teacher is trying to teach.

Cathy Brechtelsbauer, Bread for the World, Sioux Falls

The most important office of government is citizen. -Justice Louis Brandeis


This comes as no surprise to me (From my email box);


Unfortunately HB1131, to shift tax off food, was voted down in House Taxation Committee this morning.

You can thank the supporters: Rep’s Feickert, Feinstein (bill sponsor), Kirschman, and Bernie Hunhoff

Voting against the bill: Conzet, Greenfield, Kirkeby, Liss, Moser, Perry, Rozum, Russell, Solum, Wick, Willadson.  (Last year Kirkeby voted for a similar bill.)

Listen to the whole committee hearing by going to:


Click on the SDPB symbol at the top over the date 1/27, and scroll half way through the session because this bill came up about half way through.

There was an excellent body of testimony by Rep Feinstein, Greg Boris of Voices for Children, Matt Gassen (director of Feeding South Dakota, our food bank network), Pastor Karl Kroger, Joy Smolnisky of South Dakota Budget and Policy Project, and Kristin Ashenbrenner of SD Advocacy Network for Women. Also weighing in were Luke Temple of Dakota Rural Action and Senator Billie Sutton of District 26.

The opponents were Jim Terwilliger from SD Bureau of Finance & Mgt, David Owen of the Chamber of Commerce, and Ron Olinger of SD Retailers.

Comments of the legislators before the vote were very interesting:

Conzet and Wick said the refund program needs to do more educating. (It should be noted that people have tried over 7 years, which should be enough evidence that such programs do not work.)

Moser said the people who come to his church for help in Yankton are asking for help with rent, medical, and utilities, not food, and there are enough programs helping with food.

Liss said this bill “sets up a financial incentive to obesity”

B. Hunhoff, a supporter, said this will happen someday. Why not today? It’s a good moral step to help working families and the elderly.

The bill was “deferred to the 41st day”. That is how they kill a bill, because there are only 40 days in the session. We always say nothing is over ’til the final gavel sounds, but this vote seems fairly decisive, esp. given the party-line nature of the vote, unlike last year.

Nevertheless, legislators need to understand that South Dakotans really do not like this tax. The publicity against the 2004 ballot initiative had claimed it would cause an income tax and schools closing and snow not being plowed. It said the refund program would solve the problem. Seven years later, legislators should not be able to hide behind a failed, inherently ineffective refund program.

Many thanks to everyone who made contacts on this so far. This bill’s loss does not stop the cause, which goes on, toward making South Dakota a fairer state where all people can thrive.

The Advocacy Project

While I support eliminating the food tax, I think lobbying our State Legislature is a waste of time. Get a big time donor and put it on the ballot. It will pass this time.

BTW, Brian, why did you vote against this?

Don’t get me wrong, I have always felt that a tax on (essential) food is immoral, idiotic and pretty much insensitive and unfair to the poor, and everybody for that matter. It’s kinda like health insurance. No one should be benefitting from essential goods and services to sustain life. But I also have the feeling that it will fail, again;

SIOUX FALLS, SD – You could be paying less at the grocery store if one South Dakota lawmaker has his way. For the second time in as many years Sioux Falls Representative Marc Feinstein plans to propose cutting the state tax on groceries. Feinstein says constituents have told him how difficult it can be to make ends meet.

And Marc’s idea has merit;

The major difference in this bill replaces the lost four percent grocery tax revenue by adding .35 percent to all other taxable goods.

But Marc, don’t you know that means the rich would have to pay more in taxes for all of their luxury items? Why not just continue to tax the shit out of the working poor who we fuck over on a daily basis in an almost non-existant worker rights state?

While I will give props to Marc for trying a different approach, business owner ran Pierre will have no part of it – off with their heads!