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The myth of the ten-million-dollar money tree

Originally published in the Rapid City Journal, Friday, April 22, 2022

Primary election season is in full swing in South Dakota. Driving in Rapid City, the grass is turning green, trees are budding, the prairie pasque is blooming, and election signs are also seemingly sprouting from the earth. But, with all the signs of spring, there is one thing you won’t see growing in South Dakota: a money tree.

Voting in primaries is paramount. While I do not have a primary election this year, there are many other races and imperative items that the vote on June 7th will determine. Amendment C is an opportunity to protect your money, defend the Constitution, and uphold the South Dakota way of life. Therefore, the primary election is not to be skipped.

In South Dakota, we’re recognized for small government, limited laws, and less in-state influence from big spending on our policies. Unfortunately, some of these positive aspects have left South Dakota vulnerable to outside persuasion. Big money from out of state can contribute resources to push their initiatives. As a result, South Dakota is seen as an accessible test state to add national agendas and corporate objectives that will ultimately increase our taxes. In addition, our state policies can be manipulated through the ballot with more ease than in other states. Out-of-state interest groups throw some money at their big idea, and it’s possible to sway public policy regarding how (and how much of) your taxpayer money is spent.

Amendments to the Constitution in South Dakota run through two channels- either the legislature presents them and then supports them by a 2/3 majority of both legislative chambers, or individual organizations must collect 33,921 signatures (10% of the gubernatorial vote). After an amendment is placed on the ballot, it must receive a 50% plus one vote. Turnout for elections is abysmally low. A fraction of the population of South Dakota weighs in to determine our leaders and to write the check for ballot measures that could potentially cost tens of millions of dollars in the first five years of their implementation and beyond. This diverts funding away from critical budgets already in place, crucial systems that protect life and safety, and also assesses a multimillion-dollar loan out of your pocket. The money has to come from somewhere, and the money tree is nowhere to be found.

Amendment C will require a 60% vote threshold for the passage of future ballot measures that create a new tax, increase taxes, or grow government through large amounts of spending. This is a reasonable guideline for ballot measures that will cost ten million dollars or more in their first five years of implementation. Higher taxes increase the strain on everyone- our senior citizens, young people starting out, families, and small businesses. Taxpayers deserve to keep as much of their money as possible. Amendment C ensures that any ballot measure that will take more of your money can only pass if the people of South Dakota broadly support it.

Amendments to our state Constitution should not be taken lightly. There are other avenues to pass legislation that does not require editing that document- particularly when those changes include higher taxes and exorbitant growth of government. Amendment C will preserve the limited role of government in South Dakota.

Tax-and-spend groups want to use the ballot process to bypass the elected legislature- making us more like California or Washington D.C. In South Dakota, we need to remain committed to fiscal responsibility and low taxes. Amendment C will help foster our continued success of low taxation and a sound financial position.

Similar safeguards for taxpayer money have seen success in other states. For example, Washington state requires a 60% majority vote and Utah and Florida 2/3s. Comparative amendments and initiatives are proposed or already on the ballot in 5 additional states.

We can take this question of spending a step further- what happens when the $10 million money tree becomes a forest? What happens when there are constitutional amendments election year after election year? What happens if more than one initiative on the ballot passes, and it’s an increase of over twenty million dollars (or more) in the first five years? There is no $10 million money tree forest, folks- that money is coming out of your pocket.

We must have safeguards in place for the taxpayers of South Dakota. Vote yes on Amendment C.

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