Attorney General’s wording on petition stalls petition signatures, as group desires to eliminate South Dakota food and beverage tax

Petition signing
Petition signing
Published: Nov. 11, 2022 at 11:36 AM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) -Although we’re a long way from the 2024 election, efforts are underway to gather signatures for several measures to get on the ballot, including a repeal of the State food tax.

But there is a possible roadblock. Organizers of the ballot measure to remove a food tax only want it removed at the state level, not the city or county level. They say the petition description from the Attorney General’s office doesn’t align with their intent. Dakotans for health founders are considering a lawsuit.

The journey to a possible food or grocery tax repeal started during the last legislative session.

“I brought that forward and got it through the house,” said Senator Jaimie Smith of Sioux Falls. “We were able to do so. It was a of course, it had to be bipartisan if we get anything through, and it did die its quick death in the Senate.”

The concept continued through political campaigns.

“It is too important for us to get relief to the families of South Dakota, and I want to make sure the legislators are well-educated so that they do vote for this,” said Governor Noem, prior to the November 8th election.

Another approach is also underway as a ballot measure by Dakotans for Health’s Co-founder Rick Weiland.

“To exempt the state tax collection from food and drink at the grocery stores,” said Weiland.

The first step of the process at the Legislative Research Council aligned with their goal.

“Municipalities could continue to tax anything sold for eating or drinking. So that was consistent with what we submitted,” said Weiland.

LRC fiscal note food tax
LRC fiscal note food tax(Dakota news now)

But the next step made changes that could stall it.

“The Attorney General’s draft explanation was just the opposite. It said that this would also include municipalities, not just the state share,” said Weiland.

Attorney General Food Tax
Attorney General Food Tax(Dakota news now)

With no intentions to eliminate cities or counties from taxing food, Dakotans for health is reviewing its options to file a lawsuit, start over, or both. Either way, the loss of time gathering signatures is frustrating.

“Dakotans for health, you know, is poised to hold the legislature and the governor accountable. If they can’t get it done legislatively. We’ll get it done at the ballot box,” said Weiland.

Dakota News Now contacted representatives of the Attorney General’s Office, who declined to comment, and The Legislative Research Council, who didn’t respond.