Between the Lines: The wrong place for a taxing issue

David Lias

David Lias

By David Lias

I’m the guy who, years ago, lost the ability to balance a checkbook.

Thank goodness for my wife. It’s a task she took over shortly after we were married, and despite my sloppy habits (writing a check without recording the amount, losing receipts from my ATM withdrawals, etc.) she keeps our financial house in order.

I’m sharing this to be up front: When it comes to finances and banking, I’m hardly an expert.

I do have some advice for the South Dakota banking industry, however: Stop it.

Banking officials have been making the rounds to local government institutions across the state, mainly school boards, county commissions and city councils.

They’ve been urging the bodies of local government to support a resolution that calls for Congress to tax credit unions and farm credit services.

Since its launch, it appears this campaign has flown about as far as one would expect a lead balloon to travel.

It really hasn’t gotten off the ground at all – at least locally.

Earlier this month, a representative of the local banking industry made his pitch for the resolution’s support before the Vermillion School Board. A credit union spokesman was present, too, to counter those arguments.

Our local school board was cordial to both men. School board member Dave Stammer noted that he would need time to go through all the information that was presented before making a decision, but he had concerns about taking, through an added tax, more money out of the community and sending it to the state to be redistributed.

School board president Chris Esping thanked the two men for their information, but noted that the board was in no position to take a stand that favored banks or credit unions.

The Vermillion City Council reacted in a similar fashion after they heard similar presentations by banking and credit union officials last month.

“I don’t think we can sit here and decide who should and who should not pay taxes, but I don’t see anything wrong with asking (Congress) once again to take a look at it,” Alderman Howard Willson said, in a story we published in early December.

Council member Kelsey Collier-Wise said that if the issue was about tax equality or getting more revenue in the tax stream, she was concerned the argument could be applied to any group with a tax exemption.

“We have a lot of farm co-ops, non-profit organizations, obviously, and one of the things we’ve talked about a lot are these tax-exempt municipal bonds,” Collier-Wise said. “That’s the same argument that’s being used to try and take the tax exemption away from our municipal bonds, which are so important. If the main argument is this equality issue, I worry that that same argument could be applied to any of those other cases.”

One can only surmise that, with the South Dakota Legislature now in session, a similar pitch may be made to state lawmakers.

We urge representatives of South Dakota’s banking industry to stop their barnstorming to local government entities. Local governments can listen, but they really can’t help you, even if they agree with you.

Please focus your efforts on the people who are responsible for any changes to our current bank franchise taxes – members of Congress.

This local government campaign isn’t all bad – it is, in fact, enlightening. Everyone who has paid attention to it has learned a bit more about the climate in which banks and credit unions operate in South Dakota.

But please, let our U.S. senators and representatives, after hearing arguments from both banking and credit union supporters, take action on this taxing issue.

The decision rests with them.



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