OPINION: Can five bucks buy teacher happiness?

PIERRE--Raising the state sales tax to pay teachers isn't proving as easy in the Legislature this year as raising taxes and fees on motor vehicles and fuels was last year.

PIERRE-Raising the state sales tax to pay teachers isn't proving as easy in the Legislature this year as raising taxes and fees on motor vehicles and fuels was last year.

We can see when a highway or a bridge needs work. We don't see how many teaching applications our school offices don't receive.

The question raised by legislators who don't want to raise the sales tax is simple: What will we get for our money?

The answer isn't as simple as more miles of resurfaced highway or bridges replaced.

There isn't a guarantee that more people will want to teach in our public schools.


If the governor's proposed tax increase fails in the state Senate in the coming days, it will fail over that question.

The South Dakota Constitution requires a two-thirds majority in each chamber of the Legislature to raise or create a tax.

There clearly are more legislators who want to raise the sales tax than those who don't. The two-thirds majority is the hurdle.

Among the 35 senators, there appear to be nine or 10 who would vote against the tax increase and possibly another three or four.

Twelve would prevent the tax increase from passing in the Senate.

Last year, the tax and fee increases for roads and bridges finally won approval because Gov. Dennis Daugaard finally agreed with the Legislature that more money was needed.

Daugaard had been the hold-up in the past.

This year, Daugaard is out front, a Republican governor asking a Republican-dominated Legislature to raise the state sales tax to pay teachers more and to reduce property taxes.


The most-conservative Republicans in the Legislature are the hold-up this time. They generally acknowledge teachers should be paid more. They want to find the money elsewhere.

The Legislature has nine working days left in the main run of the 2016 session and one day reserved at the end of March for considering vetoes.

The simplest compromise might be a smaller increase in the sales tax.

The rate has been 4 percent since 1969. Daugaard wants 4.5 percent. Going to 4.25 percent would raise about $53 million more. Daugaard wants about $63 million to raise teacher pay.

The $10 million difference could come from within state government's budget or from state reserves. In many years, state government runs a small surplus that could cover most or all of that $10 million.

And if you keep the idea from Rep. Jeff Partridge, R-Rapid City, to reduce the tax increase if and when state government starts collecting more sales tax revenue from remote sales-goods delivered into South Dakota from Internet and catalog sellers outside South Dakota-the tax increase has the potential to someday, gradually, go away.

The proposed raise is a little over $8,000 on average per teacher. For a teacher making $32,000, that's a 25 percent increase. For a teacher making the average of slightly more than $40,000, that's a 20 percent increase.

Spread across 40 weeks of school, the $8,000 is $200 per week, or $40 per day, or $5 per hour.


Five bucks is what the fight is about.

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