South Dakota Republican House Speaker Mark Mickelson is wearing another hat this summer leading a petition drive to raise the tobacco tax as a means of delivering new dollars for the state’s technical institutes. To make it happen voters would have to approve raising the state’s tobacco tax by a dollar per pack, a number that would raise 30 million dollars annually. 10 million of the 30 would be earmarked for the state’s general fund while 20 million would be directed to the state’s technical schools.
Their goal is 18,000 signatures, which exceeds the legal number needed, but allows for a cushion to meet the necessary 13,741 signatures by the November 6th 2017 deadline.
Mickelson says that South Dakota needs skilled workers and that helping reduce tuition rates at the technical schools will improve and increase the state’s workforce.
Technical Institute tuition rates vary considerably in the region with South Dakota the highest at 230 dollar per credit. The cheapest tuition is in Nebraska where students are assessed 109 dollars per credit. Wyoming students are charged 123 dollars per credit, Minnesota 188, Iowa 175 and North Dakota 155. It’s estimated that 18 percent of the state’s population uses tobacco and that upwards of 4,000 current adult smokers might quit with the higher taxes. It’s also projected that would translate into 2,200 premature smoking-caused deaths prevented and a health care cost savings of 166 million dollars.