Legislators discuss state budget, revenue sources By David Lias
Plain Talk District 17 lawmakers Sen. Ben Nesselhuf and Rep. Jamie Boomgarden were told by local citizens Saturday to avoid approving some of the new fees and proposed cuts of some programs currently being considered by the Legislature to shore up a shortfall in the stateâ�?�?s general fund. The two lawmakers appeared at a cracker barrel meeting Saturday morning in the William J. Radigan Fire and EMS Center in Vermillion. â�?�?There is a bill of all things to tax photocopies made at public libraries,â�? Joe Edelen told the lawmakers. â�?�?That bill came up once about 25 year ago and it was defeated. I would urge both of you to work against that because the amount of money that would be raised by such a bill would be so inconsequential compared to the time and money it would take to manipulate and keep track of all of the copies that are made.â�? Boomgarden said measures such as minor taxes and fees on state services likely will be tucked into a more substantial omnibus bill near the end of the legislative session. This year, he said, it seems that nothing is off limits s lawmakers consider ways to raise state revenue. â�?�?Theyâ�?�?re even going after rodeo clowns; thatâ�?�?s how crazy it is getting,â�? he said. â�?�?Umpires â�?�? they want a sales tax on their services. Storage units, the list goes on and on, and these were things that were exempt from taxes in the past.â�? Nesselhuf said he would support a sales tax on advertising as a way to raise revenue for the general fund. â�?�?Thereâ�?�?s a bill up this year to do that, and thatâ�?�?s something Iâ�?�?ve always supported,â�? he said. â�?�?I donâ�?�?t understand why itâ�?�?s exempted. I donâ�?�?t know if it has any legs this year.â�? Nesselhuf said there have been bills introduced in the past to tax only political advertising. That, he said, is unconstitutional, â�?�?because you canâ�?�?t say you're going to tax one type of advertising and not another.â�? Nesselhuff said he wouldnâ�?�?t support an increase in the state sales tax. â�?�?Because of the way the governor is handling education formula this year, his plan will see about a $6 million increase in property taxes, which I donâ�?�?t support. I think because of our economic situation, tax increases arenâ�?�?t the best way to go.â�? The lawmakers were told that much of the stateâ�?�?s financial headaches would be relieved if Washington would accomplish the streamlining process on Internet sales. Currently, purchases of goods over the Internet arenâ�?�?t taxed, and it is estimated that South Dakota could receive from $60 million to $90 million in taxes from Internet sales. â�?�?There seems to be a fundamental flaw in our budgeting system,â�? said Steve Howe, executive director of the Vermillion Area Chamber of Commerce and Development Company. He noted that the federal stimulus package may be the stateâ�?�?s â�?�?saving graceâ�? budget-wise for next year or two. â�?�?But what happens after that?â�? he asked. â�?�?What is your long-term vision for correcting our budget issues for the next generation?â�? Boomgarden said spending â�?�?one-timeâ�? money will only be enough for the state to meet its budget needs for the next year. â�?�?But we are still going to need money for future years. Thatâ�?�?s why the cuts are important now, and to supplement that with some of the budget reserves so that in the future years we donâ�?�?t have as much debt to pay off if this goes on for two, three or four years,â�? he said.