Counties denied chance to raise sales tax for jail projects

PIERRE – In the House of Representatives, it turned out that there were two ways to look at HB1099. One way was that it would allow counties to impose a half cent sales tax for jail construction projects after a vote of the people. The other way was that it would impose a new tax that wasn’t likely to go away.

In the end, those who feared a new tax won.

The half-cent sales tax would only be imposed after a vote of the people in the county. The revenue raised would go toward the construction of a new jail. 

“It allows the voters of that county to make that decision,” said Rep. Nancy York, R-Watertown. “They know what their needs are better than the state.”

While the bill has a sunset clause that calls for the tax to end once the project is complete, some lawmakers didn’t see it that way. 

“I think you will see it rolled into a tax that doesn’t go away,” said Rep. Kaleb Weis, R-Aberdeen, speculating that once one county project is complete, another will be devised to use the new tax revenue. 

Rep. Mark Willadsen, R-Sioux Falls, said the state has been assigning more responsibility to counties without coming through with the funding they need. 

“We just tell them, ‘Buck up and do it,’” Willadsen said. 

Rep. Ray Ring, D-Vermillion, said his county desperately needs a new jail, but he was still going to vote against the bill. Ring noted other needs to be addressed in the state like teacher salaries, early childhood education and the infant mortality rate. 

“What we need is some real solutions,” Ring said. He asked the Legislature to “look for a more comprehensive way to get the resources that we need.”

Rep. Spencer Gosch, R-Glenham, predicted that the state’s roads were going to cause the state a financial hardship. 

“We are going to have to raise taxes,” Gosch said about the coming problem with roads. As for HB1099 he said, “Let the people decide how they’re going to fix their own problems.”

The bill failed on a vote of 32-35.


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