Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Initiated Measure 15: A Study In Political Naivete

On the other hand, it may be a study in incompetence.

The folks behind Initiated Measure 15 which will raise the sales tax to to fund K-12 education and Medicaid began with a number of difficult problems.

First, South Dakotans don't like taxes; it's a safe bet that 40% of South Dakota voters will vote no on any tax increase. That fact means that supports will have to convince 5 of ever 6 remaining voters to support this measure. That's a tough call anywhere, but especially tough in South Dakota under the current environment.

Second, the Pierre Machiavellian, Governor Dennis Duagaard, has suddenly found a budget surplus, so opponents of the measure have an easy talking point.

Third, even if the surplus had not magically appeared, this measure was easy to slogan against.. It is after all a 25% tax increase. That number jars. Besides, the "A penny for T Denny,"  hits a strong populist tune. T. Denny is South Dakota's one percenter.

Fourth, there is a strong progressive argument against the sales tax as South DaCola and The Madville Times both illustrate. There's no doubt that the sales tax is extremely regressive.

Fifth, schools aren't popular now; neither are poor people.

Finally, there's a cynical argument to be made that if the measure passes, there's nothing preventing the legislature from changing the funding formula so that schools and medicaid receives the same dollar amount that they currently do.

One has to wonder at the silence. Silence may be golden but it's not going to buy facts that change any of the above. It's certainly not going to convince 5 out 6 voters who may be persuadable.

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