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Is Tourism Connected to Education? If Not, Can We Still Tax Tourism for K-12?

Last updated on 2015.01.25

I'm scratching my head over a comment reported by Ken Santema from Saturday's crackerbarrel in Aberdeen. Evidently a citizen asked the legislators about a proposal to increase funding for K-12 education through a 1% tourism tax. From Santema's phrasing, it appears the questioner opposed this use of a tourism tax because tourism and education are not connected. Senator Brock Greenfield (R-2/Clark) mentioned his agreement that there is no link between tourism and education in the context of declaring a tourism tax for education a plan unlikely to pass.


  1. Isn't everything connected to education? Don't visitors benefit from an educated workforce who can count their change, give them directions, and have job opportunities that keep them from burgling RVs?
  2. Imagine you're a tourist enjoying a stay in South Dakota and we give you a choice on how you want your tourism tax dollar spent. Either you can send your dollar to the state to support K-12 education, or you can send your dollar to Pierre to pay for more tourism advertisements. Which would you pick?
  3. Just how "connected" does a thing or activity or industry have to be for us to justify taxing that thing or activity or industry to support some specific public good or service?
  4. If a thing/activity/industry we tax has to be connected in some direct way to the public good/service it pays for, should we end the use of dollars from the sales tax on food for anything other than funding the SDSU College of Agriculture?
  5. Similarly, just what public good or service is property connected to?
  6. Federally, what is income connected to?
  7. What connection does video lottery have to non-playing property owners whose taxes those video gamblers reduce?
  8. Is Senator Greenfield saying he will go to Pierre and demand a budget that funnels every tax dollar from sales, contractors, gambling, etc. into strict budget lines connected exclusively to "connected" public goods and services? Or did he just need an excuse to shoot down a reasonable plan that would raise revenue for K-12 education and give us a chance to prove his dear old mom wrong?
  9. Does this thinking turn every government function to a fee-for-service model?

Crackerbarrels do raise some good questions. They also provoke Republicans to raise some odd objections to raising revenues to help our schools.


  1. Chris S. 2015.01.26

    #9 is the key point. They want everything government does to be fee-for-service, and to get rid of everything else. Welcome to a bleak land of toll roads and few public services, and even those reserved for only the few who can afford them.

  2. Steve Sibson 2015.01.26

    Tourists have there own kids to education. What you are promoting is out right coveting.

  3. Bill Fleming 2015.01.26

    Looks like we have are own Sibby to education. :-)

  4. JeniW 2015.01.26

    When I first read the concept of increasing taxes by 1% during the months of June, July, and August, I thought that there must be people who expect tourists to be responsible for educating the SD youth.

    Tourists, whether from within the state, out of state, or from other countries already pay for increased motel rates and etc. during the summer months, which means that the state is already collecting tax revenue from those increased rates.

    IMO, SD needs to be responsible for supporting and funding educating our youth, and not expect others to do it for them.

    Rather than increasing taxes by 1%, if going to raise taxes at all, it should be raise it by .5% (half of 1%) all year long. That would put the responsibility where it belongs.

    The state of SD pays out money to promote gambling (lottery tickets,) as evidence by the commercials to buy lottery tickets for Christmas gifts, and paying the media sources to announce lottery winners. Is that any more or any less acceptable than the state of SD promoting tourism?

  5. Steve Sibson 2015.01.26

    Feedback I am getting says that education spending is going up, but most is paying for the implementation of Common Core and the assessment testing. All of which puts money into the pocket of the Crony Capitalists.

  6. Tim 2015.01.26

    Cory, most people in this state got their education in this state, I present as my evidence Sibson, try not to expect to much from them.

  7. CLCJM 2015.01.26

    Love your comments about Sib, Tim. Plenty of evidence of that. If revenue has to have a connection to what it gets spent on, then maybe someone can explain to me what the gambling revenues has to do with the $69m to both the original XL Pipeline and the proposed one? Since the gambling revenue goes into the general fund and Rounds just reached right into that cookie jar and redistruted that wealth, there must be a connection, right???

  8. drey samuelson 2015.01.27

    I have very little enthusiasm for a sales tax increase--which is regressive, by definition--to deal with school funding issues (I voted against the last one for that reason)... a much better alternative would be to establish a corporate profits tax and dedicate the derived revenue to schools--right now many millions of dollars in untaxed profits leaves South Dakota and heads to out of state corporate headquarters, and taxing that money is a much better target, in my view...

  9. Tim 2015.01.27

    drey, there is no way the republican ruling party will expect business to help pay for education with taxes of any kind, all they have to do is close some of the existing $600 million in annual business tax loopholes to completely finance education, don't hold your breath waiting.

  10. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.01.27

    Thanks, Drey! The regressive/progressive debate is a whole separate and good reason to oppose using a sales tax to fund education. We should seek public revenues from those best able to shoulder the burden. That's much more logical than whatever lines Senator Greenfield is trying to draw to turn government into a fee-for-service program.

  11. Tim 2015.01.27

    Cory, knowing that SD rulers won't send the education bill to the people that benefit most from an educated workforce, how would you suggest raising funds for education? Please keep in mind property taxes are pretty high now and all of that video lottery windfall has been sucked into the black hole known as the general fund never to be seen again.

  12. Lynn 2015.01.27

    It seems to me that our state tax system needs a major overhaul and as it stands now is very regressive and unbalanced. That major tax overhaul would require a major overhaul of representation at the voting booth.

    When I read what these reps say at cracker barrels or the bills they propose I wonder how the hell did they get elected. Hardly any imagination and bold ideas and much of it seems scripted and similar to what other GOP legislators are doing in other states from bill factories like ALEC.

  13. Tim 2015.01.27

    Lynn, we need a state income tax, that would allow true property tax reform and enough money to properly fund education. Good luck with that.

  14. drey samuelson 2015.01.27

    Tim--thankfully, the Republican Party doesn't rule South Dakota--if it did, for instance, the minimum wage increase initiative would never have passed, nor would the 2012 referendum that stopped diversion of 22% of the contractor's excise tax to "large projects," nor would the 2006 initiative to restrict the personal use of the state airplane by the Governor, nor would have the 1998 initiative (known as Amendment E) that stopped non-family corporations from buying farmland or expanding livestock operations... The belief that the Republicans rule the state is self-defeating--they have inordinate influence, for sure--but they don't rule it, we do, at least if we choose to do so.

  15. drey samuelson 2015.01.27

    Just saw this at the Tax Justice blog: "South Dakota has the 50th highest taxes overall (7.9% of income- making it the “lowest” tax state), but the 11th highest taxes on the poorest 20 percent of residents (11.6% of income). The top 1 percent richest South Dakota residents pay only 2.1% of their incomes in state and local taxes."

    All good--well, if you're in the top 1% richest, anyway...

  16. tara volesky 2015.01.27

    The 60% for property taxes that go to schools should be eliminated and add a personal and corporate income tax. Maybe than the wealthy that run our state counties, cities and school boards will make responsible decisions when it comes to spending and giving away money. It will directly affect them.

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