South Dakota Governor Noem’s State of the State Address
On Tuesday South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem delivered her State of the State address. Here is the transcript:
Lieutenant Governor Rhoden, Mr. Speaker, members of the legislature, Chief Justice Gilbertson, Justices of the Supreme Court, constitutional officers, and fellow South Dakotans. It is my privilege to stand before you today to discuss the state of our state.
Just 14 days ago, we turned the page not only on a new calendar year, but also on a new decade. And today, we kick-off a new legislative session. Last year, we found so many ways to work together to give greater freedoms to our people, promote our outdoor heritage, and restrict the endless expansion of government into our daily lives. This year, it is my hope that we will find even more opportunities to work together – advancing commonsense solutions to the problems we can solve on behalf of the people of this great state.
One of the things I was taught as a kid was that you don’t just complain about things; you work to fix them.
And as this year’s session starts, we must keep in mind that we are looking, not just at the short term, but at the long term too.
Fifty-nine years ago, almost to the day, President Eisenhower, in his farewell address, warned the nation to avoid the impulse of living only for today. He spoke candidly about how wrong it would be to mortgage the future of our grandchildren because it would lead to the loss of their political and spiritual heritage. He said, “We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.”
As you may recall in my inaugural address, I told you about my desire to be a governor for the next generation. The north star that guides my every decision is the impact a policy, a piece of legislation or program will have, not only on South Dakotans today but also on the next generation.
I grew up with a Dad who dreamed of all four of his kids being able to stay on the family ranch if they wanted to. My vision for South Dakota is the same. We must ensure that every South Dakotan can build their life here and make a good living, so they can provide for their families and maintain our traditions and way of life. This is why I am committed to four pillars of protection for South Dakotans: keeping taxes low, limiting government regulation, fighting government intrusion, and keeping government open and honest.
With a year under our belt, I’m proud to stand before you and say we accomplished a lot in 2019, and we did it all without raising taxes and without spending more than we took in. And unlike Illinois, New York, and many other states, we are seeing a net increase in our population. Why? Because Americans are looking for the opportunities that present themselves in states that encourage self-government like we do here in South Dakota.
And to all the business prospects we’ve been recruiting, I’d like to make the case here and now about why you should join us in South Dakota.
Anyone who has spent time here realizes what great people we have in South Dakota - our work ethic and values are second to none. We don't have a corporate income tax. And there’s also no business inventory tax. For our hard-working residents, we are one of the few remaining states with no personal income tax - and I am committed to keeping it that way. We don't burden our citizens with a personal property tax or an inheritance tax.
The taxes that we do have to fund state government are stable and predictable. In addition to my commitment to not raising taxes, our constitution requires a 2/3rd vote in both chambers to raise taxes. In short, if you’re worried about tax increases, you needn’t be – your business is safe here.
Government in South Dakota lives within its means. We balance our budget without accounting gimmicks or tricks.
I'm proud of our AAA credit rating, and our state pension plan is fully funded. That means businesses that move here don't need to worry about surprise charges, fees, or taxes to make up for an unfunded pension plan like our neighbors in Illinois.
In South Dakota, we believe in smart regulation. We roll out the red carpet, not the red tape.
Our part-time legislature is one of just a few that is a true citizen legislature. Our legislators come to Pierre, tackle the problems that need to be tackled that session, and then go home to their jobs, their families, and their communities.
Our state parks and outdoor recreational opportunities are second to none. There's a reason we are the pheasant capital of the world. I have traveled all across this country and around the world, and I can tell you, there is no better place to operate a business and raise a family than in South Dakota.
For employers and employees alike, my goal is to make sure folks across the country and around the world know that South Dakota is THE PLACE to do business. Whether you’ve owned and operated a business for four generations, or you’re looking to start or even relocate your current operation, I want my message to be crystal clear: South Dakota is OPEN for business.
In the next few minutes, I’m going to walk you through some of the specifics of what we were able to accomplish this last year and what we’re looking to do in 2020 and beyond.
A priority of my administration has been to open up South Dakota’s government and make it more accountable, more accessible, and the most transparent it has ever been. It was Thomas Jefferson who said the whole art of government is honesty. He was right. A government that cannot be trusted by the people is no longer serving one of the primary purposes of government: to preserve the blessings of liberty.
We have taken many steps over the past year to advance this important goal. As I highlighted in the budget address, we expanded the capabilities of Open.SD.Gov. We took to heart the importance of fact-based reporting as a key component of holding government accountable, so I asked for a reporter shield law and – together – we got that done.
We took advantage of free technology like YouTube and Facebook Live to bring information directly into the living rooms of South Dakotans. And we are currently working with the Municipal League and local governments to find a way to get their meeting materials online like we do at the state level. In other words, we are making participation in government easier for every South Dakotan, and modern communications tools are incredibly helpful to open government in a state as large as ours.
It is my desire to be the most connected governor the state has ever seen. This includes bringing my administration to every corner of the state and advocating for our great state all across the country. Over the course of this first year, we held official events in nearly 30 counties. I sat down and strategized with hundreds of business leaders. I have visited with teachers, soldiers, farmers and ranchers. And, at the request of the Department of Tourism, I helped promote South Dakota’s brand and footprint throughout the nation and globally at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
My team is also working to provide our communities – even the most remote ones – the tools they need to be connected.
In America’s early days, mail was delivered via post road. The Founders thought communication was so important to the business of the people and the nation that they included a provision in the Constitution to allow for the government to establish post roads. Well today, in the modern economy, technology allows for the transportation of goods and services by way of a whole different kind of post road – the internet. We want to create an environment where people aren't forced to choose between the modern economy on the one hand, and life in their hometowns on the other. We must make sure our people can harness the latest technology to take advantage of what has become the modern equivalent of a post road.
Along those lines, I stood before you last year and told you we needed to set goals as a state to bring our homes and businesses up to a satisfactory level of broadband access. I outlined a plan to do so, so that more South Dakotans than ever before could be connected to high-speed internet. I told you we couldn’t do this alone – that we had to bring industry leaders to the table to help us identify our gaps and outline a plan to bridge them.
Let me provide you with an update on where things stand today.
In March, you approved $5 million dollars to be used as matching funds for broadband improvement. The Connect South Dakota program, which launched in May, brought in a total of $12.2 million dollars.
Because the state now has a plan in place, South Dakota companies have been awarded additional points on their applications for USDA Reconnect grants. This is a federal program that provides funding for telecommunications updates. In December, this federal program awarded another $9.5 million dollars in high-speed broadband infrastructure that will create or improve connectivity for more than 1,750 homes in rural South Dakota.
Combined, that means our $5 million dollars has resulted in a $25 million investment in underserved areas – touching 6,500 homes and nearly 150 businesses. Let me tell you two stories about this work.
In March of last year, we received a letter from a young couple, the Johnson family. They had recently built a new home in the rural area east of Dell Rapids. They built their home on farm land that has been in the family for five generations. They had all the latest technology – smart switches, smart alarms, smart thermostats – technology that would provide greater convenience and, in some cases, even insurance discounts. But there was one problem… they couldn’t use any of it because they didn’t have broadband access. They didn’t have what they needed for their career, their business, or their kids’ school work. One line from the letter that still sticks with me today is “Our daily struggles due to lack of broadband seem so ridiculous in a time when everything relies on being connected.”
There’s also the story of the Linderman family. John and Patty own the only grocery store in Timber Lake, on the Cheyenne River Reservation. The next nearest grocery story is 40 miles. They didn’t have high-speed internet either. For them, that meant they couldn’t provide their customers with credit card, debit card, or WIC and EBT payment options. They even had to do all their orders for the store somewhere else. As you can guess, they lost a lot of business. But for Patty and John, they were most heartbroken about sending away those with WIC purchases.
Fast forward to the end of last year, thanks to the work of GOED, the Johnson family and Linderman business are now connected to high-speed internet.
The great news is that there are 6,500 more Johnson families out there and more than 150 business’ like the Lindermans. The rural life is their preferred way of life. They want to stay on the land their grandfathers and grandmothers once farmed. They want to stay in the communities they call home. These choices should not stop them from being connected to basic technologies like high-speed internet.
While $5 million didn’t fix our broadband gap overnight, it was a very strong start. More needs to be done. My hope is that we can continue to work together this legislative session to address more of our high-speed internet needs.
I started out my speech with at least 10 reasons why it’s great to live and work in South Dakota. And as we focus on economic progress, let me give you some good news.
Since my budget address, revenues have been slightly better than expected. What this means is that we may have extra flexibility to achieve the things we want to accomplish. My number one priority with additional, on-going money will be to provide increases to K-12 schools, providers, and state employees.
In order to do this for many years to come, we must work together to find ways to grow our state’s economy. With our eyes fixed to the future, we can ensure that every South Dakotan can build their life here, get good jobs, make a living and support their families.
Over the last year, I sat down with hundreds of business leaders across our state and across the country. I listened to their ideas, needs, and concerns. And I outlined where I would like our state to go this year as well as into the future for the next generation.
One of the bright spots in our state’s economy over the last decade has been tourism. Despite tough weather and an up and down economy during that time, tourism has remained strong in the face of challenges and has continued to deliver good results year after year.
This is no small accomplishment.
The tourism industry has achieved nine straight years of record growth, reaching new levels of visitors, spending, and overall impact on our state’s economy. It is truly a revenue-generating, job-creating sector for South Dakota.
In 2019, tourism activity directly supported more than 37 thousand jobs and 55 thousand jobs in total. This is 8.8 percent of all jobs in the state – 1 out of every 11.
Secretary Hagen has shared with me that despite the flooding and adverse weather we faced statewide in 2019, overall, the initial data his department has received is more encouraging than expected. We will be sharing more about this next week.
In addition to those efforts, let me outline some of the other things we’ve been working on to grow the economy last year and update you on what we’re hoping to do in 2020.
One important and emerging sector is cybersecurity. We all know that the threat of a cyber-attack is an increasing concern to individuals, businesses, and governments in every corner of the globe. In May 2019, the Economic Development Administration awarded a $1.46 million-dollar grant to Dakota State University to help establish a high-speed research network. Because it is designated as an Opportunity Zone, the investment will receive a $1.46 million-dollar match in local funds.
For the EDA to invest its money into Dakota State is monumental. It’s our academic leader in cybersecurity and it has been designated a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations by the National Security Agency.
As I’ve said before, I want to emphasize that we have a great opportunity to capitalize on world-class talent coming out of DSU. We have a chance to lead the nation in cybersecurity. We must remember to train not only this workforce, but also to attract or create new companies here in South Dakota. Let’s keep our graduates, at home, with great jobs and a way of life they love.
Of course, we all know that agriculture is the foundation of our state's economy, and we need to find ways to strengthen and broaden our ag industry. There’s no question last year was a hard year for our farmers. But when times get tough, our people stand together. South Dakotan farmers pressed on.
Fortunately, 2020 looks to be different. Last month, we received the fantastic news that President Trump completed Phase One of a historic trade agreement with China. This new agreement is a win for South Dakota producers.
Knowing first-hand the relentless effort that is needed to negotiate trade deals, I have a deep appreciation for our President’s leadership and commitment to mend the U.S-China trade relationship.
I'm traveling to Washington to join President Trump at the White House as he signs this important agreement tomorrow. And I won't be going alone; I've asked Jerry Schmitz, a South Dakota soybean producer, and Craig Andersen, a South Dakota pork producer, to join me. We will all be there as the President locks in this new agreement and opens up new opportunities for South Dakota ag products.
In 2019, we expanded our ag focus to three key areas: precision ag, production ag and value-added ag.
South Dakota counties that are interested in pursuing production ag or livestock development now have new opportunities. Our goal is to develop a lasting infrastructure devoted to agriculture for generations to come.
Over the next 10 years, private industry, South Dakota State University, the School of Mines and Technology, and the state will partner to support research and development in bioprocessing. We must invest in the future of ag in our state, diversifying operations for our farmers, ranchers, and timber producers. Our graduates will have a deeper understanding of how biofuels and agriculture can drive change across the globe.
Like cyber security, South Dakota is uniquely positioned to lead the nation in the development of bioprocessing, and I hope we can work together to support this initiative. There is another area where we are already a leader – South Dakota is the pheasant capital of the world. We know success often brings imitators. Other states are pursuing that title.
I stand before you today and call on every South Dakotan to get involved in the long-term preservation of our habitat. Pheasant hunting is a statewide tradition. For a century we have been the premier destination for hunters. And I want to make sure that title is ours in the century to come. With neighboring states trying to steal away our hunters, I’m calling on all of us to recognize this threat and join me in doing what it takes to improve and expand our habitat.
We need to continue focusing on CRP efforts. We trapped 50 thousand predators this last year, and hopefully more people will find ways to participate in the Second Century Initiative. Though our efforts have just begun, I’m hearing from people all over the state that birds are more plentiful.
I’m also pleased to announce that the bounty program we launched last year has been a success in more ways than one. Game, Fish, and Parks recently conducted a survey on South Dakotan’s perceptions of the bounty program and the results were overwhelmingly positive. We’re getting more people involved in trapping and the outdoors. Hunting, trapping, and shooting are great American traditions, fundamental to the culture and success of our state. These traditions help kids develop respect for nature, for property rights, as well as for other people.
This year, Game, Fish, and Parks and the Department of Tourism will be partnering to not only ensure that people in South Dakota are enjoying their great outdoors, but also that we’re attracting others to come to our state and do the same.
On a related note, in 2019, Game, Fish, and Parks began a pilot HuntSAFE program in schools across the state. The goal of the course is to teach students the responsible and safe handling of firearms as well as the values that come from being a true sportsman – values that should never be lost. We have 32 schools that are now certified to teach the program, up from just 8 schools in 2018. I’d love to see every school offer this program.
I talk all the time about finding ways to build up our families and a big part of that is giving people access to the tools they need to be successful.
Occupational licensing laws represent a burden. South Dakota is prepared to be an example of reform for the nation.
Last year, I asked that Secretary Hultman at the Department of Labor and Regulation lead an extensive review of the 101 licenses required in South Dakota.
Overall, South Dakota’s licensing system is in good shape, but there are many immediate actions we can take to further reduce burdens on our small business owners.
In the coming weeks, we will be taking several steps toward the goal of smart regulation, including simplifying licensing.
We will work to decrease wait time for license approval. We will find ways to increase transparency by requiring Advisory Committees to adhere to Open Meeting Laws. We will review the complaint and disciplinary processes for all boards and commissions. And we will identify opportunities to allow reciprocity.
Credit: Dakota News Now