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South Dakota’s lawmakers do a lot of things the right way. They properly manage our pension system, we have a low tax burden, our unemployment rate is low, and we’ve established a welcoming business climate. Our state is ranked among the top in business climate, places to start a business, places to live and retire, among others. However, there easy steps our lawmakers can take to provide a pathway to prosperity for South Dakotans to thrive.
Many local occupations are overregulated, our education system needs reform, and our criminal justice system needs to be improved. Further, we have two of the poorest counties in the United States, each inhabited by our Native American reservations. Our nine Native American reservations are marked by unemployment of over 40%, poor educational outcomes, high drug and alcohol abuse rates, negligible housing, and high crime rates. To take our state to the next level, we must face these challenges.
South Dakotans shouldn’t need a permission slip from the government to work. We can improve people’s lives by reducing the number of occupations that require unnecessary licensing and limit fees that prevent people from pursuing their dreams. By passing legislation that automatically reviews the necessity of licensing requirements, we can put people back to work.
South Dakota falls behind the nation for having excessive licensing fees and continuing education requirements that are too burdensome. This year, Americans for Prosperity-South Dakota will support legislation that creates a sunrise/sunset review process of the proper level of licensing, fees, and continuing education requirements.
In South Dakota, we have many opportunities to reform our criminal justice system and remove barriers to opportunity that will provide second chances to those that have paid their debts. We must eliminate barriers that block formerly incarcerated individuals from successfully returning to our communities after they’ve served their time and focus on treating addiction rather than incarcerating those charged with low-level drug offenses.
This year we will focus on policy changes to focus on treating the root cause of addiction rather than incarceration for low-level drug offenses, as evidence shows that overcriminalization does not solve for addiction and instead leads to barriers that last a lifetime. Diversion and treatment of the underlying causes of addiction create stronger families, lower the burden on taxpayers, and ensure more healthy, contributing members of society.
In addition, we will support legislation to eliminate unconstitutional seizure of assets through civil asset forfeiture. It’s time to stand up for property rights and require the burden of proof of a crime before assets can be taken from.
All too frequently, local bond elections are held at random dates throughout the year, resulting in low voter awareness and participation. Oftentimes, taxpayers are burdened with a heavy price tag for these underutilized elections. Further, decisions like opt outs aren’t even presented to the electorate for approval. Standardizing election dates could serve to enhance voter participation and result in better decision-making regarding the use of taxpayer dollars for the functions of government. We believe taxpayers should have a better opportunity to weigh in on decisions like opt outs. We will support legislation that offers two election dates per year for these votes: one being the Primary Election, which is held on the first Tuesday in June and the second being the first Tuesday in November during the General Election.
South Dakotans deserve to keep more of their hard-earned paychecks and in order to make that a reality, we must tackle the state’s sales tax rate. Currently, our sales tax statute calls for a reduction of 0.1% for every $20 million of online sales tax revenue generated after the Wayfair Supreme Court decision. South Dakota has surpassed this threshold and a rate reduction must occur, but the current statute leaves much uncertainty and does not include an ease of implementation. It is our contention that not acting to clarify this language is a de facto tax increase. It is our hope that the legislature will address this important loophole this legislative session.
All families should have the opportunity to pursue the right educational environment for their children, regardless of income or ZIP code. Allowing every kid to discover, develop, and apply their unique talents is important to improving South Dakota’s education system. It’s time to look at opportunities that will expand access to a quality education, such as through the insurance premium tax credit scholarship program or legislation that creates a charter school option for students. In the end, we should be creating more options so that all children can find the educational environment that best fits their unique needs.
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