PIERRE, S.D. — The state House speaker said Tuesday that he plans to pursue a ballot measure that would impose a $1 tax hike on a standard pack of cigarettes to make South Dakota’s four technical institutes more affordable.
Republican Rep. Mark Mickelson said he decided to push that proposal rather than a smaller package of tax increases on tobacco products. Attorney General Marty Jackley earlier on Tuesday filed an explanation of the initiative with the secretary of state’s office, a step required before signature gatherers can spread out across the state.
The proposed ballot measure would increase taxes on different tobacco products including a $1 hike per 20-cigarette pack. South Dakota’s tax is currently $1.53 per pack, according to the Tax Foundation, an independent tax policy nonprofit.
The tobacco tax plan aims to make state technical institutes more affordable and raise money to offer more programming, and Mickelson has said that lowering the cost of attendance would help keep young people in South Dakota. A June report to a state legislative panel found that South Dakota’s tech institutes charge the highest average resident fees and tuition regionally.
Backers of the ballot measure need to submit nearly 14,000 valid signatures to the secretary of state in November 2017 to get on the ballot in 2018.
Voters in neighboring North Dakota last year rejected a ballot question that would have raised the state’s 44-cent cigarette tax to $2.20.