PIERRE | Tourism Secretary Jim Hagen was all smiles Tuesday after the Senate voted overwhelmingly to make South Dakota’s 1.5 percent tourism tax permanent.
The bill, which was approved 33-2, now goes to the desk of Gov. Dennis Daugaard, who is expected to sign it into law. If he does not, the tax would revert to 1 percent after June 30.
Business people from across the state made trips to the Capitol during the past month to lobby for the bill.
“When they get engaged, they’re a great army — but a friendly one,” Hagen said.
The tax was 1 percent on most tourism-related goods and services until 2009, when the Legislature added one-half of a percent to offset budget cuts facing the state offices for arts and archaeology as well as the Cultural Heritage Center.
The extra half-cent was passed with an expiration date of June 30, 2011. Legislators granted another two years in 2011. The tax now raises about $3.1 million annually, with $2 million used for matching grants to promote community events and special attractions.
Republican Sens. Ryan Maher of Isabel and Ernie Otten of Tea opposed the measure. Maher offered an amendment that would have extended the half-cent through June 30, 2023, but it was rejected on a voice vote.
Maher said the 10-year sunset would help keep the program accountable after all of the current legislators have been term-limited. He said the previous sunset clauses are part of the reason the program has been successful.
Maher had put the two-year sunset on in 2009. He said he could sense the bill was going to pass Tuesday without a sunset this time. He voted no anyway.
“I just wanted to make a statement,” he said.