She didn't quite say "read my lips," but Kristi Noem's pledge against tax hikes was pretty clear

Last Updated by Kevin Woster on
During the 2018 governor's race, Kristi Noem pledged no tax increases

Ever go online to read the Dakota Free Press blog? If you don’t, you should. But be forewarned: It’s liberal. Very liberal.

That’s not just my judgment. It’s Cory Heidelberger’s judgment, too. And he is Dakota Free Press.

South Dakota’s True Liberal Media. 

It says so right on the home page at

And Heidelberger doesn’t disappoint. He’s liberal, aggressively so —but in an entertaining, often educational way that, OK, sometimes is a bit harsh.

But in today’s blogosphere, “a bit harsh” is fairly gentle.

Dakota Free Press is gentle, with an edge. It’s also pretty well researched, and interesting.

I forget to check in with Heidelberger as often as I should. But fortunately, I get Twitter reminders from time to time. Or I get them regularly and notice them from time to time. I’m not sure which.

A reminder I noticed Monday sent me to a post from Sunday by Heidelberger on three tax-related bills that he says would, if passed, reflect hypocrisy on the part of first-term Gov. Kristi Noem.

If they pass, that is. And if she supports them, of course, and doesn't drop a veto bomb.

That Noem-tax-hypocrisy post was the fifth down on the main page of DFP when I checked it Monday. In the previous four, Heidelberger takes a swat at poor old Arch Beal, a Republican state representative from District 12 in Sioux Falls and vice chair of the House State Affairs Committee.

Heidelberger listened to a recording of the committee meeting (Did you actually listen to all 3 hours and 15 minutes, Cory? Because I don’t have that kind of determination), then slapped Beal around a bit for his handling of committee matters when he took the gavel from Chairman Lee Qualm.

According to Heidelberger, Beal needed guidance in handling process directives, such as reading the bill title, opening discussion and calling the role. 

“Good grief. If your vice chair doesn’t know the basic order of business and can’t even remember the vote count the secretary just recited to him, you need a new vice chair,” Heidelberger concluded.

Well, that’s a little harsh. Maybe it just means Arch needs more experience at running the show.

Still, I love the use of “Good grief.” Social media would be a better place if there were more expressions of that kind and less of the other. Let’s all work on it, huh?


But getting back to Noem and the tax thing, which I’ll do, soon. Really, I will. Just a second.

First, though, there’s the second post down on the DFP page, in which Heidelberger takes to task Republican state Rep. Tamara St. John of Sisseton for a bill that the whiz kid of DFP (he is kind of a whiz kid, even if he isn’t really a kid anymore…) feels is well intended but essentially meaningless.

The bill is aimed at increasing tribal participation in entrepreneurship and state economic development initiatives and directs appropriate state agencies to connect with tribal liaisons to help them join in state economic development initiatives. It also would assist each tribe in developing a Uniform Commercial Code to “facilitate business to business to business relationships with tribal members and to foster new business in the state.”

Missing in the bill, Heidelberger points out with a gentle edge, is any new policy, any state funding and any standard or defined goal or outcome to “hold us accountable for moving the economic-development needle in Sisseton, Pine Ridge, Rosebud or Eagle Butte.”

Of course, I have to add “Lower Brule” and “Fort Thompson,” to include the two tribes I grew up among. You could probably throw in Flandreau and Lake Andes, too.

And it’s true that the language of the legislation is a bit fuzzy, which prompted Heidelberger to label it “adminspeak.” It’s also true that “vague” is an understatement for additional language in the bill declaring that the state is “authorized and encouraged” to work in partnership with public universities to “accomplish the activities” defined in the act.

I don’t know who in the state would work with public universities on this, or how they would benefit the tribes. So, yeah, fuzzy.

But I wouldn’t call it a total loss. If you hope for specific goals and programs and projects, you have to start by requiring better connections between state economic-development officials and tribes. And Uniform Commercial Codes are essential to business development.

The universities are centers of potential for economic development work. Maybe somebody will educate me on how they would work with state economic-development specialists and the tribes to create jobs and boost the tribal economies.

Lots of questions left unanswered in this bill. But it matters, nonetheless. Outreach to the tribes by state officials matter. Obligations to do more as a state than we have done matter. And putting all that in law, insufficient as it might be, would matter.

It’s not enough. Not by a long shot. But it means something. Or should.

Next in scrolling down on DFP is a look at legislative intent on how to use “new” state money from internet sales to reduce the state sales tax rate, an issue up for debate and possibly open to change in the Legislature -- with predictable conflicts over what we really need to do. And then Heidelberger takes a look at SB 66, which has been reshaped into a summer study on the issue of compensating rural electric cooperatives for electrical services taken over by municipalities in areas that have been annexed.  Interesting stuff there, too.

Then there’s Noem and tax increases that HB 1209, HB 1251 and SB 182 would either impose or allow.

HB1209 would stick a pretty hefty wholesale tax on electronic stogies — cigarettes, cigars, pipes, etc. HB1251 allows a tax on pari-mutuel bets placed by South Dakotans at simulcast facilities in other states. And SB182 increases the maximum that school boards can levy for special education.

SB182 passed the Senate 31-4 on Monday. On the same day, the House passed HB 1209 and HB1251 by votes of 48-19 and 49-18.

All three bills inspired Heidelberger to predict hypocrisy on the part of Noem, noting that she said prior to the 2019 legislative season that: “We won’t raise taxes.”

I don’t remember that specifically, but then I’m not sure where I parked my car, either. So I assume Heidelberger is right. I do remember during the primary campaign for governor against Marty Jackley about a year ago that Noem made kind of a big deal out of a pledge against raising taxes.

Here’s what she said in a news release on Noem/Rhoden letterhead: 

“As governor, I pledge to veto any and all efforts to increase taxes. You’ve worked hard for your money. The government needs to respect that.”

It’s pretty clear, then, that in order to keep that campaign pledge, Noem would have to pull the trigger on HB1209, HB1251 and SB182, should they reach her desk.

Otherwise, I guess, she will have broken her campaign promise, which I hear is a bad thing. Of course, campaign promises are in many instances made simply for campaign purposes, which means they might or not be rational and beneficial.

Noem has made the pledge against no new taxes or tax increases before. She signed the pledge against tax hikes that was circulated years ago by Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform. Sen. John Thune signed it, too.

Not Sen. Mike Rounds, however. When Rounds announced his campaign for the U.S. Senate in 2012, after taking a couple of years off from politics to run his insurance business, I asked him about the Norquist pledge. Rounds said he had refused to sign it years earlier when Norquist contacted him by telephone.

“He called me at home, back when I was (state) Senate leader,” Rounds said. “I just said ‘no.’”

Just say “no.” I like that. It's catchy.

Why did he just say “no”?

“I don’t think you go in saying I will never do this or never do that,” Rounds said. “No, I will not sign a no-new tax pledge.”

As for Noem, well, some campaign promises are made to be broken. Maybe this is one of them.

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of SDPB, Friends of South Dakota Public Broadcasting, or the State of South Dakota.