Tourism tax wins final OK in SD SenateBusiness people from across South Dakota made trips to the Capitol during the past month to urge the Legislature’s approval.
By: Bob Mercer, Republic Capitol Bureau
PIERRE — His smile seemed big enough for Mount Rushmore, as state Tourism Secretary Jim Hagen thanked senators Tuesday afternoon for making permanent South Dakota’s 1.5 percent tourism tax. The Senate, on a vote of 33-2, gave final legislative approval to the measure, which now goes to Gov. Dennis Daugaard for his expected signature. The tax, otherwise, would revert to 1 percent after June 30.
Business people from across South Dakota made trips to the Capitol during the past month to urge the Legislature’s approval.
“When they get engaged, they’re a great army — but a friendly one,” Hagen said.
The standard tax was 1 percent on most tourism-related goods and services until 2009, when the Legislature added one-half of a percent to offset budget cuts facing the state offices for arts and archaeology, as well as the Cultural Heritage Center.
The extra half-cent was passed with an expiration of June 30, 2011. Legislators granted another two years in 2011. It currently raises about $3.1 million, with $2 million used for 50-50 grants with local supporters to promote community events and special attractions.
Voting no Tuesday were Republican Sens. Ryan Maher of Isabel and Ernie Otten of Tea. Maher offered an amendment that would have extended the half-cent through June 30, 2023. But that was rejected on a voice vote.
Maher said the 10-year sunset would help keep the program accountable after all of the current legislators have been term-limited. He said the previous sunset clauses are part of the reason the program has been successful.
Maher had put the two-year sunset on in 2009. He said he could sense the bill was going to pass Tuesday without a sunset this time. He voted no anyway.
“I just wanted to make a statement,” he said.