Another victory for the tourism tax bill

The extension of South Dakota’s tourism surtax took another step toward passage Friday.

The measure, supported by broad margins in both political parties this year, would make permanent a half-percent surtax on visitor-related purchases during summer months in South Dakota.

In the absence of action, that tax is scheduled to fall from 1.5 percent to 1 percent.

But the Senate State Affairs Committee unanimously approved a bill making the 1.5 percent rate permanent Friday morning.

A range of tourism officials and business owners testified in favor of the measure Friday, arguing the cost of the tax was more than outweighed in the benefits it brought to the state.

Senators on the committee agreed the measure was necessary, but differed in their enthusiasm.

“I can’t tell you how much I support this initiative,” said Sen. Mark Johnston, R-Sioux Falls.

Sen. Tim Rave, R-Baltic, was more cautious.

“Is tourism more important than health care, or is it more important than schools?” Rave asked, before voting for the bill.

The tourism tax bill, House Bill 1066, already passed the House of Representatives 64-4. If the full Senate passes it, it will head to Gov. Dennis Daugaard to be signed into law.

The governor supports making the tourism tax permanent.