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Eleven South Dakota Legislators Violate Norquist No-Tax Pledge to Fund Schools

Last updated on 2018.05.07

One of my Republican friends noted yesterday that a lot of RINO flak around U.S. Senate candidate M. Michael Rounds focuses on his weak fiscal conservatism, not his weak social conservatism. I would welcome a stiff GOP primary where a majority of the shouting was about taxing, spending, and sloppy money management rather than another tired reiteration of the culture war.

Of course, any Republican South Dakota legislators contending that M. Michael Rounds isn't Grover Norquist enough will have to explain why they voted to increase tax rates during the 2013 Legislative session. Josh Verges explains that taxes in the Sioux Falls school district are going up largely because the Republican Legislature approved increases in the property tax levy for schools.

Take a look at this year's Senate Bill 28, which increases the maximum school general fund levy 6.6%. Of the thirteen South Dakota listed as signatories of the Grover Norquist no-taxes pledge, eleven voted voted for this tax rate increase. The House roll call vote shows that Reps. Craig, Hickey, May, Miller, Olson, Schremp, and Westra violated their pledge to Grover. In the Senate, Senators Lederman, Monroe, Otten, and Peters broke their promise to "vote against any and all efforts to increase taxes."

The only two South Dakota legislators who stuck to their word (at the expense, of course, of practical budgeting for our K-12 system... but dangit, pragmatism is a dirty synonym for liberal!) are Senator Phil Jensen and Rep. Stace Nelson.

Stace Nelson... haven't folks been talking about him as a guy who could challenge Mike Rounds in the primary?


  1. Rorschach 2013.04.09

    The pledge is straight forward and clear. These folks broke the pledge.

    This pledge is contrary to responsible governing, but if you're going to make it you should have the integrity to keep it.

  2. Ryan 2013.04.10

    BS! The levies historically are voted lower when valuations go up. It's been quite awhile but only ag saw an increase in valuations. The levies had been going down yet property taxes had gone up which is how local effort increases every year to fund schools. No more no less this year.
    It's like saying they didn't lower the sales tax rate to off set inflation so they should be called RINOS because we are paying more in sales tax this year than last.

  3. Stace Nelson 2013.04.10

    Gov Rounds cannot commit to pledging NOT to raise taxes!? My question would be to he and his handlers: "Why then is he running as a Republican? "

    If you think that pledge is too extreme and he cannot manage to change his tax & spend ways, than he will love to find out what it really means to be a SD Republican. The marching orders of the South Dakota grassroots Republican Party or the original Taxed Enough Already (TEA) Party says they are taxed enough already! They also state that if you are a Republican in South Dakota, it is your explicit duty to REDUCE local, state, & FEDERAL taxes: Plank #'s 5.1 & 5.2

    We have a spending problem in SD. It pales in mass compared to DC; however, SD government has grown by leaps and bounds under Rounds & Daugaard. That growth takes away focus & funds from the core requirements of our state government's responsibilities like education, roads, etc.

    I am hoping that actual Republicans will come out of the woodwork to challenge the Rounds & Daugaard political machines.

    If these Chicago lawyer politicians give me an appointment with the fishys, please,, someone make sure I have a nice picture on the milk cartoons...

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.04.10

    Ryan, does the Norquist pledge contain asterisks and fine print authorizing such exceptions to "any and all efforts to increase taxes"? Sioux Falls homeowners will pay more taxes, and it's because of this increase in the levy, right? That's an increase in taxes, right?

  5. Les 2013.04.10

    Ryan please explain. """""BS! The levies historically are voted lower when valuations go up. """"". So we vote levies higher when ag values are going through the roof and home values are flat to rising across our state?
    Why don't you just rewrite your whole comment. If you think you clarified something, you sure didn't with me.

  6. Rorschach 2013.04.10

    Your whole comment is BS, Ryan. The law was changed to allow tax levies to be higher than they would have been if the law had not been changed.

    Let me say that again.

    The law was changed to allow tax levies to be higher than they would have been if the law had not been changed. No asterisks needed. The import of voting for this bill is absolutely clear. Those who voted for it voted for higher taxes.

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.04.10

    Hold up, Stace. I understand your absolutist interpretation of the GOP platform, but I don't see a conflict between being a Republican, supporting the idea of lowering taxes whenever possible, but acknowledging that sometimes, you might have to raise taxes for the good of the state.

    Try this: I'm a Democrat. I support lowering taxes whenever possible (I cut taxes 60% and then some (I wanted a 100% cut) on the Lake Herman Sanitary District Board, which staged and opt-out and stockpiled taxpayer dollars for a bad public policy that would saddle Lake Herman residents with costly and unnecessary infrastructure). I also repealed the district's illegal collection of taxes from property outside its legal boudaries. I refuse to take a pledge to support any and all efforts to raise taxes. I recognize there are certain times when certain taxes should be raised and certain times when certain taxes should be lowered.

    Now if you say that true Republicans must define themselves in absolute opposition to taxes, anytime, anywhere, on anyone, and if you claim anyone deviating even minutely from that policy, then you define darn near everyone, including the eleven Republican legislators named above, as Democrats or liberals or pragmatists.

    And if you want to define "liberal" and "pragmatist" as synonyms, go right ahead. Liberals and pragmatists both believe in doing what works.

  8. Rorschach 2013.04.10

    I bet Stace and I would agree about whether making a pledge means something. Does the pledge of allegiance mean anything? Of course.

    These 11 people made a clear and concise pledge to oppose tax increases, and they broke it. Apparently they believe this pledge was just a marketing tool to wave around at election time to get votes. Once you start breaking pledges, is the pledge of allegiance next?

  9. Les 2013.04.10

    At what point does a system ever have enough Corey? The ever expanding society so opposed by many as the end all for our world is not an ifinate possibility and neither is a tax increase, every time someone is convinced of that value.
    Come across to our side of the world where our customers are not forced by law to attend through age 16 and revenues don't flow as we demand. Understand that money does not grow on trees in the private biz sector as it can with the revenuers choke hold on us at the end of the rifle barrel.
    You could fit right in with ol Ryan in the Dept of Revenue.

  10. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.04.10

    That's a good pragamtic question, Les. I can't give you a general rule for when any system has enough inputs. I can tell you that, as with my cars and bikes, sometimes I have to spend more to keep them running, sometimes I have to spend less. A personal rule that declares I will spend less on my car this year than I did last year will likely leave me walking to Rapid City by October. I can make that a budget guideline, but if the transmission falls out, practically speaking, I've got to keep raising my revenues (working more hours, sacrificing luxuries) on the table as an option.

    I will also remind you that whatever the needs of our current society, we are operating with less government than Bush II left us with and paying less in taxes than we have since the Eisenhower Administration.

    Dang: when Rounds gets in trouble for his pragmatism, he should rebut with quotes from the Madville Times.

  11. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.04.10

    ..oh yeah! And what Jana said!

  12. Dana P. 2013.04.10

    right on, Jana!

  13. Ryan 2013.04.10

    The levies are only half of the formula. If valuations go down and levies go up you arrive at the same number as valuations up and levies down. Owner occupied saw an actual decline in overall valuation so levies actually went up. That however doesn't mean taxes went up any higher than the reverse scenario.
    @les-Ag levies went down because valuations are still going up unlike the other classes of property.
    When the legislature usually lowers levies do you see a decrease in your tax bill! No!
    Again I repeat, if you don't cut the sales tax to off set inflation, you certainly would not be in violation of the pledge. Taxes rise with value.

  14. Les 2013.04.10

    Sounds like Corey, Dana and Jana all have money to spend. It's always nice to have able volunteers. I pay close to half my taxable income in the taxes of all varieties. Still not griping as my kids pay more than I do. How do youse all get away with such small tax liabilities?

  15. Les 2013.04.10

    AG levies went down because valuation are still rising Ryan?
    But, taxes rise with value?
    No kidding son, all my taxes, ag and housing are up. Convince me another mil isn't going to cost me.
    How long have you been interning with the DOR? The Supremes had to paddle you twice to get your attention. It looks looks another trip to the woodshed is in order.

  16. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.04.10

    Les, I don't feel like I've ever had money to spend. I'm making a policy point. Sometimes we have to do things as a community that will cost us more than we spent last year. Sometimes we can cut programs that are no longer useful or that were someone else's bad idea. Taking the absolutist position that we will never raise taxes is foolishly impractical.

  17. Ryan 2013.04.10

    Let me ask this to you pledge people. If we reform the tax code and overall taxes are lower but that means rates go up, is that a violation? I don't want higher taxes but I'm also smart and engaged enough to know what my representative voted on and I'll decide at election time. All pledges do is get people tripped up in semantics. People who violate the pledge get in more trouble than people who don't sign it. George HW Bush got thrown out not because he raised taxes, but because he said he wouldn't and we got Clinton for that!

  18. Rorschach 2013.04.10

    Perpetually wrong Ryan: George HW Bush got thrown out in part because he raised taxes after obstinately challenging everyone to "read my lips. no new taxes."

    By the way, Clinton was a fabulous President - far better than his predecessor.

  19. Ryan 2013.04.10

    Les- When's the last time your property taxes went down even though levies had been dropping for years? I'm sorry you don't understand our tax system :(
    BTW- this chap is no intern and has never worked for anyone except myself and I pay plenty in property taxes

  20. Les 2013.04.10

    I understand it well enough Ryan. I'm trying to comprehend your statements of support for the levy increase. You state we have a balance. Valuation goes up, levy goes down and vice versa. So please explain why a change is necessary if it is not going to cost someone more? If this honorable fulcrum was already set, why not leave the rest up to the townships, schools and counties and let them mil at the levels they desire?
    You also state, " taxes rise with inflation". Then you turn around and state levies fall with valuation. Which is it Ryan? Inflation for the poor slugs that spend most of their meager wages in retail but valuation for the rest of us owning all the real estate? I don't need an answer to this, I'm just pointing out confusion.
    I'm also not saying the process is or ever will be simple to satisfy all parties involved.

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