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Noem passes on calls for food tax special session

Joshua Haiar

The Democratic candidate for governor is joining some Republicans in calling for a special session to remove the sales tax on food in South Dakota.

Gov. Kristi Noem (R, S.D.) is hesitant, despite making the issue a campaign promise.

For over a decade, Democrats have decried what they call a ‘regressive’ tax. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jamie Smith sponsored a bill to repeal the tax in 2021.

Earlier this year, a last-minute House proposal to end the tax failed in the Senate.

Smith says he’s ready to vote on it again.

“Call a special session so we can provide immediate relief for South Dakotans hurting under record inflation,” Smith said. “By choosing to wait, the governor demonstrates her disinterest in the actual work of the government collecting millions in taxes that could have been returned to South Dakota citizens.”

Smith’s Republican opponent voiced concerns about reducing the food and other taxes in March.

Noem held an impromptu press briefing at a Sioux Falls grocery store Wednesday immediately after Smith’s announcement. She says she’s worried the idea would not pass in the legislature if a special session were called right now.

“Many legislators have been asking questions, I’m grateful for that," Noem said. "I don’t want to put us in a situation where this bill fails. It’s too important for us to get relief to the families of South Dakota. I want to make sure the legislators are well educated so they do vote for this.”

Some legislators say they want to see more revenue collection numbers before committing to the proposal.

A special session requires a call from either the governor or two-thirds of each legislative chamber. Noem says she’s ready to sign the tax cut into law if legislators call themselves into session.

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.
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