Mickelson wants to raise millions for tech schools

Rep. Mark Mickelson, R-Sioux Falls, intends to circulate a ballot-measure petition that proposes increasing tobacco taxes to provide additional funding for for South Dakota’s public technical institutes.

Mickelson, who is presiding officer as speaker for the state House of Representatives, presented two versions of the concept to the state’s chief elections official, Secretary of State Shantel Krebs, and the Legislative Research Council.

State Attorney General Marty Jackley delivered his official explanations — version 1 and version 2 — of the proposed ballot measures Tuesday.

Version 1 calls for increasing the state tax by 50 cents per 20-cigarette pack. It also calls for raising tax to 45 percent of wholesale price for other tobacco products; that rate currently is  35 percent.

Version 1 would dedicate $15 million from tobacco taxes to tech-school funding.

Version 2 calls for increasing the state tax by $1 per 20-cigarette pack. It also calls for raising the tax to 55 percent of the wholesale prices for other tobacco products; that rate currently is 35 percent.

Version 2 says $20 million from tobacco taxes should be dedicated to funding for the technical institutes.

Both proposals in their titles say the purposes are lowering student tuition and providing financial support to the state postsecondary technical institutes.

Mickelson said Thursday he plans to circulate the $1 / $20 million proposal in version 2.

He would need at least 13,871 valid signatures of registered South Dakota voters by Nov. 6, 2017, to make the 2018 general-election ballot.

They are initiated measures. That is important for the following reason.

In the 2017 session Sen. Jim White, R-Huron, was prime sponsor of a change in state law regarding the effective date of any ballot measure approved by a majority of voters.

The new law — SB 59 — says the ballot measure would take effect July 1 after the completion of the canvass by the state canvassing board.

That means the tobacco-tax opponents in the Legislature could attempt to repeal the tax increases during the 2019 session before the increases took effect.

It’s difficult to say whether the 105 members of the Legislature, newly elected in November 2018 as well, would consider repeal or other modifications.

The current governor, Republican Dennis Daugaard, is term-limited and can’t seek re-election in 2018. So it’s also difficult to say what the next governor would do if a repeal or other modifications made it to her or his desk in 2019.

The additional tax would be atop the $1.53 per 20-cigarette pack now levied in South Dakota.

The secretary of state’s office shows at this link that seven ballot measures are already circulating; nine more have attorney general explanations and potentially could be circulated; and four await the AG’s explanations. Some, such as the two tobacco-tax increases, are versions of the same concept with differing details.

We are in for a wild 2018.