SD Senate repeals food-tax refundsPIERRE — South Dakota’s program providing food-tax refunds to lower-income households would end after eight years, to be replaced by grants to emergency food providers, under legislation that won approval Monday in the state Senate without any votes to spare.
By: Bob Mercer, Republic Capitol Bureau
PIERRE — South Dakota’s program providing food-tax refunds to lower-income households would end after eight years, to be replaced by grants to emergency food providers, under legislation that won approval Monday in the state Senate without any votes to spare.
The vote was 24-9. As a spending bill, it needed 24 “yes” votes to pass. The legislation now moves back to the House of Representatives for consideration of the Senate version.
Rep. Susy Blake, D-Sioux Falls, watched the Senate debate from the fourth-floor gallery.
After the tally was announced, she politely shook her fist in a sign of victory, then pantomimed grasping her stomach in a sign of worry.
Blake originally proposed directing the money to Feeding South Dakota, a non-profit umbrella group that works with more than 400 hunger programs throughout the state.
Her legislation was changed by the Senate committee on appropriations, so that the state Department of Social Services now would request proposals from organizations seeking to distribute some or all of the approximately $800,000 available during the next four years.
Sen. Corey Brown, R-Gettysburg, made the amendment. He praised Blake during the Senate debate for bringing a plan that included the funding. “All too often in appropriations, that’s not the case,” he said.
Blake had fought to resurrect the legislation, House Bill 1206, after the House committee on appropriations killed it. She eventually won House passage 49-18 of the Feeding South Dakota version.
“I believe this is one of the better ideas we’ve had before this body in a while,” Sen. Todd Schlekeway, R-Sioux Falls, said.
Schlekeway said the change offers an opportunity to cover more families who have needs than the refund program was serving.
There were 264 families enrolled for the refunds in the current budget year.
He also praised Brown. “Usually, when Sen. Brown offers an amendment, things turn to gold.”
So did Sen. Billie Sutton, D- Burke. “Thinking about it more and more, I think the amendment did a lot of good,” Sutton said.
Sen. Mike Vehle, R-Mitchell, praised Blake for working on it “like a dog on a bone,” but spoke against the change.
He predicted the sales tax on food could be eventually eliminated if the refund program doesn’t continue.
He questioned why the government should take people’s money and donate part of it.
“I contend we’re going down a slippery slope we better not go down,” Vehle said.