South Dakota Supermajority Required to Raise Taxes, Amendment B (1996)

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The South Dakota Supermajority Required to Raise Taxes Amendment, also known as Amendment B, was on the November 5, 1996 ballot in South Dakota as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment, where it was approved. The measure required that any new state tax or increase in tax rate be approved by two-thirds of each branch of the legislature, or be enacted by the people through initiative.[1][2]

Election results

South Dakota Amendment B (1996)
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 229,580 74.28%
No79,49325.72%

Election results via: South Dakota Political Almanac, South Dakota Constitutional Amendments, Initiatives and Referendums 1970-2010

Text of measure

The text of the question read:[3]

The Constitution presently allows new taxes to be imposed by majority vote of the Legislature. A majority vote is also required to increase some tax rates; other tax rate increases require either a two-thirds vote of the Legislature, or enactment by a statewide public vote (initiative).

The proposed amendment would require that any new tax, and any increase in the rate of any tax, be approved by two-thirds of each branch of the Legislature, or enacted by the people through initiative.

The proposed amendment applies only to taxes levied by the State. It does not apply to taxes imposed by a local government, such as a county, city, or school. [4]

Support

Jerry Wheeler, Executive Director of South Dakota Retailers Association and President of No More Taxes Coalition, supported Amendment B. He submitted this argument in its favor to the official ballot pamphlet:[3]

The present Constitution requires a two-thirds majority vote of the Legislature to raise most existing taxes. However, to enact any new tax, it takes only a simple majority vote.

Voters have an opportunity to change the Constitution to require a two-thirds majority vote of the Legislature to implement any new taxes, as well as to increase most existing taxes. It’s important to support Amendment B for these reasons:

Currently, if the legislature wants to raise your sales, use, excise, contractors excise, motor vehicle excise or farm machinery tax, they must drum up support from two-thirds of the lawmakers. However, they could adopt a personal or corporate income tax, personal property tax, a tax on your hospital and doctor bills and prescription drugs - or any other kind of new tax - with just a simple majority.

While most everything the Legislature does is referable by a vote of the people, generally taxes are not referable - that is why it is even more important that the Legislature be required to have more than a simple majority to raise your taxes. A two-thirds vote is only a reasonable protection, since that is what is required to raise existing taxes.

Some lawmakers have been known to be a bit “flexible” in their definition as to what is an existing tax and what’s a new tax. The result? Oftentimes, the Legislature cannot raise a tax already in place, so they tinker around with it just enough that they can get by with calling it a new tax, which allows it to pass with a simple majority rather than requiring a 2/3 majority. Under Amendment B, this loophole will be plugged.

Requiring a two-thirds majority to enact a new tax would require Republican and Democratic legislators to work in a bipartisan manner to resolve any fiscal difficulties.

If Amendment B is approved by the people, it won’t be easy for the Legislature to adopt new taxes. And it shouldn’t be. [4]

Opposition

State senator Richard B. Negstad opposed Amendment B. He submitted this argument opposing it to the official ballot pamphlet:[3]

The last 15 words of the proposed amendment to Section 14, Article XI of the S.D. Constitution would provide for minority control in the S.D. Legislature concerning tax issues. This would be unfortunate and unnecessary because all levels of government have performed best when majority rule has prevailed. Majority rule is a basic tenet in our country and any weakening of this principle is unwise.

Before any bill, tax bills included, is passed by the legislature the bill is debated and voted on by both the House of Representatives and the Senate. All of these votes, as well as committee votes, are recorded so that the people of the state may know how each legislator voted. Therefore, the proper way to control taxes and other issues is to elect legislators who represent the views and opinions of the people of their district. Voting for new taxes or tax increases is NOT easy or pleasant for any legislator!

Minority rule mandated by our South Dakota Constitution would be unwise and an infringement on the rights of the majority! [4]

See also

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