Referred Law 14 could change big business incentives - KSFY News - Sioux Falls, SD News, Weather, Sports

Referred Law 14 could change big business incentives

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As Election Day gets closer, activists are hitting the streets even harder, but it's not all about the candidates.   

An ad encouraging people to vote ‘Yes' on Referred Law 14 already hit the airwaves while members of South Dakota's Democratic party met to speak against the law on the ballot this November.  

Referred Law 14 targets economic development and gives big businesses grant incentives to bring more jobs and business to South Dakota.  

If enacted, the incentive money would be pulled from 22 percent of the Contractor's Excess Tax—a tax applied to building projects and materials that is specific to South Dakota.   

The proposed law will replace a prior economic development program that expires in December.  In the past, South Dakota has helped many businesses get their start.  

Showplace Wood Products received a low-interest loan that helped them build their business from the ground up.  

"Our initial investment was in the $6 million range but then throughout tour growth it has increased even more than that," said Showplace Wood Product's Marketing Director Scott Korsten.

Along with those millions invested during their initial construction process, Showplace also had to pay the Contractors Excess Tax. 

Supporters of Referred Law 14 say large businesses are wary of building in South Dakota because of that extra contractor's tax. 

They say under the proposed law, businesses with a project over $5 million would be able to apply for a grant to offset part or all of that tax. Businesses would apply to the Board of Economic Development to receive a grant, but opponents fear the selection process won't be fair.  

"I don't think you can have politicians picking winners and losers in the marketplace if you don't have accountability so you can measure the results," said Democratic Party Representative Bernie Hunhoff.  

They also say taking the funds from the Contractor's Excess tax will take millions out of the state's general fund.  But supporters argue it will actually cost less than the previous law.  

"That means 22 percent of the contractor's excess taxes would be set aside, about 16 million dollars…which is less than the current 23 million dollars," said State Economic Development Commissioner Pat Costello.   

Opponents say they're not against economic development plans with incentives for large businesses.  They would just like to structure the law differently in terms of the funding source and grant selection process.  

However, both sides agree that bringing new business to South Dakota benefits everyone.  

"They buy materials, they pay for services, they buy insurance and they give people jobs," said Korsten.

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