- Associated Press - Saturday, February 20, 2016

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - A Rapid City legislator says he plans to change his vote to a yes on a sales tax proposal that would help raise teacher pay in South Dakota.

Republican Rep. Scott Craig issued a statement late Friday saying he plans to flip his vote Monday to keep the sales tax proposal under consideration in the South Dakota House.

The proposed half-cent sales tax increase would help fund Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s plan to improve South Dakota teacher pay. The vote in the chamber was 46-23, just one short of the two-thirds margin required to pass a tax hike. House members on Friday voted by a simple majority to reconsider the bill on Monday.

“Unfortunately, for most teachers across the state the vote conveyed a lack of support and appreciation, and they are disheartened,” Craig said in the statement. “I am looking forward to a seeing a second plan filed in the Legislature and I believe both plans should be debated in the legislative body, and the greater of the two plans should prevail.”

If passed by the House, the bill would need two-thirds support from the Senate before heading to the governor’s desk.

A state task force studying education funding found that South Dakota teacher pay is the lowest of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Daugaard’s proposed sales tax increase would raise more than $100 million in the upcoming budget year, most of which would be put toward helping raise the state’s target average teacher salary to $48,500 per year. If enacted, it would be the first permanent increase to the state’s sales tax rate of 4 cents per dollar in nearly half a century.

About $62.4 million from the sales tax hike would go toward teacher salaries and about $40 million would go to property tax relief, according to the governor’s office.

Opponents argue that education could be prioritized in existing tax dollars.

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