AARP Eye Center
Week 3 of the 2023 South Dakota legislative session is in the books!
We started the week with our Lobby Day event - the first time in three years we have been able to bring a full group of advocates to Pierre! On Monday, the AARP SD volunteer Executive Council met to review priorities for the coming year, and we also had the opportunity to meet with Attorney General Marty Jackley to talk about issues like consumer protection and fraud prevention - one of our key focus areas for 2023.
On Tuesday, more than 60 advocates boarded buses and came to Pierre from across the state. What a great day! Participants sat in on morning legislative committee meetings, we served a delicious lunch for legislators and had the opportunity for a group picture with Governor Noem, Lt. Governor Rhoden and Attorney General Jackley.
Thanks to everyone who participated in our 2023 Lobby Day (and we hope even more of you can join us for Lobby Day 2024!).
Property Tax Relief
On Tuesday, AARP South Dakota testified in support of Senate Bill (SB) 26 which updates the income parameters for the Property Tax Reduction from Municipal Taxes for the Elderly & Disabled program. AARP South Dakota supported SB 26 because it indexes South Dakota’s property tax exemption levels for lower-income taxpayers to inflation, so the value of this important benefit does not erode over time. These new levels will help more of our older residents stay in their own homes as they age. At the same time, the legislation remains targeted to those South Dakotans with the most need, an important principle for relief to help ensure that localities have the revenue they need to provide essential services.
The property tax continues to be the most burdensome tax for many of our low-income and older people to absorb. It affects people directly as homeowners and indirectly as renters. At the same time, the property tax is an important source of tax revenue for South Dakota’s local governments, as it funds some of the government services most important to our taxpayers.
Given that property taxes provide revenue for the public services that taxpayers value, effective property tax relief programs require policymakers to be strategic. To preserve revenue for essential services, property tax relief measures must be efficient, targeting relief to those most in need. They must also be well designed to specifically address the financial challenges faced by taxpayers who possess value in their homes but may lack the current cash flow to pay property taxes.
With AARP South Dakota’s support, SB 26 passed through the Senate and the House of Representatives. It now moves to the Governor’s desk for her consideration.
Eliminating Sales Tax on Groceries
On Thursday, AARP South Dakota testified in favor of House Bill (HB) 1075 in the House Taxation committee. HB 1075 is Governor Noem’s bill to eliminate the sales tax on groceries. HB 1075 has bipartisan support and passed out of the House Taxation committee and now moves to the House Committee on Appropriations with a Do Pass recommendation. Sales taxes are a regressive form of taxation, and a sales tax on groceries is especially burdensome for older and lower-income individuals and families who may already be struggling to meet their daily needs. A tax on groceries may require older South Dakotans to choose between the purchase of food for themselves and their families and other vital necessities, such as prescription drugs or heat.
Access to an adequate and nutritious diet is foundational to maintaining health, quality of life, and independence as we age. While the risk of developing chronic conditions increases with age, recent AARP research indicates that nutrition is more important for healthy aging than generally recognized. Our older South Dakotans are our volunteers, our caregivers, and our veterans, and their contributions to our state and communities have been and continue to be vital. Eliminating the sales tax on groceries so they can access nutritious food without having to sacrifice other essentials will help them continue to lead a healthy, active life.
Thank you to everyone who responded to our action alert this week sending letters of support to members of the House of Representatives. We will continue to update you on the progress of this bill.