A proposed tax increase on cigarettes has one South Dakota group upset

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KSFY) - A South Dakota organization started running attack ads that say an initiated measure over tobacco tax is a bad policy.

But, the ballot question's sponsor, Representative Mark Mickelson says the ad is not accurate.

Initiated Measure 25 will raise the tax on cigarettes, and some of that money will go towards tech schools in the state. Right now, South Dakota's technical colleges have the third highest cost of tuition in the nation. But, those against the tax raise say why only focus on one of education?

South Dakotans against higher taxes sponsor the advertisement. This organization feels the increased tax on tobacco isn't necessary and has many questions as to how this will benefit all South Dakotans.

"It doesn't guarantee that they will deliver help to tech schools," Dan Nelson, South Dakotans Against Higher Taxes communications coordinator, said. "And even if it can deliver that guarantee, which it can't. Why tech schools over other types of education?"

House Speaker Mark Mickelson told me right now the tax on cigarettes is $1.53. If lawmakers pass the tax, South Dakotans will be paying a dollar more for a 20-pack of cigarettes.

"Twenty-million of this will go to technical schools," he said. "I'm confident in that. That's the way the proposal is written. The technical schools have very strong support. So, I wouldn't think it would be changed."

Showing strong support for these technical colleges is one of the reasons this measure was drafted.

Critics believe it will end up hurting businesses in the state and already have several business associations backing their cause.

"It hurts retailers, especially in border communities because South Dakotans, while paying higher taxes unless they buy their tobacco from a nearby state that has much lower taxes," Nelson said. "And if this passes our taxes will be higher than every state but Minnesota."

Mickelson who is in favor of this tobacco tax says voters should follow the money and says tobacco companies have a history of opposing higher taxes.

"What they're trying to do is create uncertainty in the minds of voters," Mickelson said. "And I don't appreciate it because it's not accurate."

Initiated Measure 25 will be on the ballot this November.