Amendments, referred law on ’98 ballot

Amendments, referred law on '98 ballot Editor's Note: South Dakota voters will be considering eight constitutional amendments and one referred law on the ballot Nov. 3. In the coming weeks before the election, the Plain Talk will print pros and cons of the ballot questions and the Attorney General's official explanations. The pros and cons are written by proponents and opponents of the ballot questions. The information is from a pamphlet prepared by the Office of Secretary of State.

Free pamphlets can be picked up at any county auditor's office. They are also available at the library or on the Internet at htm.

Secretary of State Joyce Hazeltine said anyone who wants a pamphlet may also call her office toll free at 1-888-70ELECT.

Constitutional Amendment A

Title: Initiated amendment to Article VIII, Section 15 of the South Dakota Constitution concerning the taxation of real property for school purposes.

Attorney General Explanation

School districts have a constitutional right to use real property taxes to pay their expenses. On average, about half of school funding comes from property taxes. If property taxes are removed as a source of revenue for schools, the Constitution requires that the Legislature find some other method of funding public schools.

Amendment A would not eliminate property taxes, but would prohibit using such taxes for public schools.

Amendment A contains no effective date. If it is effective immediately, and the Legislature does not meet and find an immediate alternative revenue source, then contract rights may be violated. Property taxes for payment of existing school bonds will probably not be affected.

Amendment A may conflict with Amendment�F. If both constitutional amendments pass and are found to conflict with each other, one or both could be declared void.

A vote "Yes" will prohibit the use of property taxes to fund public schools.

A vote "No" will leave the Constitution as it is.

Pro — Constitutional Amendment A

Since 1972 SD taxpayers have complained about the tax system in their state. Several initiated measures have been submitted to the voters, but all have failed because of heavy resistance from the Executive Branch, the Legislature and special interest groups. Consequently, South Dakota is still in dire need of tax reform!

Several studies have confirmed the inequities and problems with our tax system. A 1989-90 study, ordered by Gov. Mickelson, found that (1) property taxes are high, (2) property tax assessments are unequal and unfair, (3) current tax sources are inequitable. The findings and recommendations of this study were largely ignored. Another study of the property tax problem is now being conducted because of rapidly rising property assessments and tax bills.

Amendment A is designed to "jump start" tax reform by changing the way education is funded. Currently approximately 62% of property tax revenue is earmarked for Kindergarten-12 grade education. This heavy reliance on property taxes has caused huge increases in property tax bills to meet increased costs of education for the past 2 1/2 decades. And in spite of these increases, education is still not properly funded; schools are in disrepair, teachers receive the lowest average salaries in the nation, and bond issues for buildings or repairs are being voted down in many school districts.

Under section 15, Article VIII of the Constitution, the Legislature has responsibility for funding education by "general taxation" and therefore should initiate tax reform. An offer to withdraw this initiative from the ballot was made to the last Legislative session if serious tax reform was introduced and put to a vote of the people. This offer was ignored and the Legislature will not enact tax reform until required to do so by a vote of the people.

The taxpayers of SD need Legislative action on real tax reform; not more studies of a known problem.

Vote "Yes" on Amendment A.

Submitted by: David D. Ruff, 3040 Ridge Road, Spearfish, SD 57783. Ruff is one of the sponsors of this initiative.

Con — Constitutional Amendment A

Amendment A is an 11-word sentence that would create major

problems for South Dakota's kids and our quality of education will suffer.

1. Loss of Local Control

If passed, virtually every dollar used to fund South Dakota's public schools will come from either the state or federal government, and policy makers in Pierre and Washington, DC will decide the revenue side of every school district's budget. This will lead to fewer opportunities for our young people at a time when they need more communication, problem-solving and mathematical skills than ever before.

2. Property Taxes Would Not Go Away

Currently, local school districts receive an average of 62 percent

of property taxes paid; cities, counties and special districts receive the rest. Even if Amendment A were to pass, property tax payers would still be paying a tax bill that would be nearly 40 percent of its current total.

3. Tax Chaos Will Result

If passed, Amendment A would go into effect the day after the

state election canvass in December, 1998. Calculating taxes owed would be chaotic, and potential lawsuits would tie up this question in the courts for months or years.

4. Legislative Approval of All School Construction Projects

School bonds have been let under terms that they be repaid by

local property taxes. If property taxes are no longer available for school purposes, serious questions will arise about how current bonds will be repaid. And since no local property taxes could be used to let bonds for future construction projects, school districts would have to get funding approval for each new construction project from the state Legislature.

5. Loss of Federal Matching Funds

Most federal school aid programs require local matching funds, so there is a distinct possibility that some local programs will be pared back or cut entirely. This could affect a variety of services including special education and school lunch programs.

Amendment A deserves an "F." Vote NO on A.

Submitted by: Ray Trankle, Taxpayers for Education and Common Sense, PO Box 1214, Pierre, SD 57501-1214.

Constitutional Amendment B

Title: An Amendment to Article III of the South Dakota Constitution concerning the authority of a special interim legislative committee to approve the transfer of appropriated funds.

Attorney General Explanation

Each year, the entire Legislature appropriates money which may be spent only for specific, approved purposes.

Amendment B would allow the Legislature to create a joint legislative committee to act when the Legislature is not in session. This committee would have the power to approve funding transfers and change the purposes for which the transferred funds were initially appropriated.

A vote "Yes" will allow a joint legislative committee to approve funding changes when the Legislature is not in session.

A vote "No" will leave the Constitution as it is.

Pro — Constitutional Amendment B

The South Dakota State Legislature is in session for only part of each year, 35 days in even numbered years and 40 days in odd numbered years. When the Legislature is not in session, fiscal and budget matters are overseen by the Legislative Interim Appropriations Committee. In the past, there has been some uncertainty within State Government as to the extent of the authority of the Interim Appropriations Committee to act on behalf of the full Legislature.

The Executive Branch is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the State Government, but may only spend money on behalf of the State as set out in the annual budget approved by the Legislature when it is in session. In running State Government, the Executive Branch has occasionally found it is in the best interests of the State to transfer appropriated monies from one part of the annual budget to another part of the annual budget. Appropriated funds do not include funds provided to South Dakota by the federal government for particular programs and projects. When making such transfers when the Legislature is not in session, the Executive Branch has normally so informed the Legislative Interim Appropriations Committee.

The proposed amendment to the State Constitution would grant the Legislature constitutional authority to authorize the Interim Appropriations Committee, when the Legislature is not in session, to approve or disapprove transfers of appropriated funds prior to such transfers being made. The Executive Branch would thus be required to get approval from the Interim Appropriations Committee before making transfers of funds as appropriated in the budget.

Passage of this constitutional amendment will eliminate a grey area of responsibility between the Executive and Legislative branches of state government. It will clarify how the Legislature is to perform its constitutional and statutory duties as watch dog of our taxpayer dollars.

Submitted by: Rep. Roger Hunt, P.O. Box 827, Brandon, SD 57005. Rep. Hunt represents District 10.

Con — Constitutional Amendment B

Opponents to Amendment B declined to provide a Con statement.

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