Lawmakers Look to Make ‘Super Majorities’ the Rule
PIERRE - The South Dakota Senate is moving forward on proposing a constitutional amendment that would require a two-thirds majority of voters to create or raise taxes in direct ballot initiatives. The legislature has already put the two-thirds majority burden on itself in order to make increasing tax revenues essentially a non-starter.
Make no mistake, the proposed amendment is meant to slam the door on any new taxes in perpetuity. Ask any school board and they will tell you that the direct ballot process is already an uphill battle for winning tax revenue. After all, who wants to vote to raise their taxes?
Raising the bar to require a super majority is simply undemocratic.
You remember democracy, right? Majority rules; does that sound familiar? Well the legislature doesn’t think that it should apply anymore. They believe that the people cannot be trusted to act in their own best interests as far as raising taxes goes.
In fact the asymmetry here is pretty astounding. A simple majority is all that would be required to cut taxes or give away revenues to special interests, so the hypocrisy is being laid on rather thick.
Heaven forbid that the people should get tired of hearing that there is no money available for any of their priorities while their representatives fall all over themselves to give that limited money away to their fat cat cronies. They might actually (gasp, clutch the pearls) vote to institute a corporate income tax to fund education or fix the state’s crumbling infrastructure or something.
If getting two-thirds of voters to agree is not such a problem, maybe we should amend the state constitution to require a super majority to determine at the end of each legislator’s term whether they deserve to be paid.
Proponents of the amendment argue that the issue is being put into the hands of the voters by requiring a simple up or down vote to be enacted, but don’t be fooled. The “drown government in the bath tub” crowd wants this issue on the ballot in a non-presidential election year specifically because they believe they can turn out their people, while the rest of us are too busy watching reality TV to notice what they just got away with doing.
Making sure that government is too weak and ineffectual to actually improve people’s lives is their overarching goal. By ensuring that the government never has enough money, they think that they can make the people so distrust its institutions that we stop even trying to use democracy to rein in the excesses of the free market and protect the public interest.
We the people deserve the right to have our voices heard. A simple majority should be all that is necessary, no matter what the issue is. Defeating this motion is not about raising taxes, it is about protecting democracy.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of John Gossom and do not reflect Results Radio, Townsquare Media, its sponsors or subsidiaries.