South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard's State of the State address on January 9, 2018 included remarks on healthcare, workforce development, teacher pay, and the use of non-meandered waters for recreational use. Daugaard is term-limited; this is his final legislative session as South Dakota's chief executive.
Daugaard on Medicaid
Governor Dennis Daugaard is calling the state to pursue a waiver allowing work requirements for Medicaid enrollees. This comes after the Trump Administration recently announced a willingness to consider such eligibility requirements.
Daugaard notes that in South Dakota, Medicaid is only available to children, pregnant women, people with disabilities, and low-income parents.
“Work requirements may only apply to a subset of that last category: very low-income, able-bodied parents who aren’t already working or caring for a child under one. That’s approximately 45 hundred individuals,” Daugaard says.
Minority Leader Spencer Hawley (D-Brookings) says this doesn’t help the nearly 50,000 “working poor” in South Dakota who might benefit from expanding Medicaid.
We need to not focus on the two or three or four thousand that this work requirement might be effecting. But we still need to focus on the fact that there’s still a great many South Dakotans out there that can’t afford healthcare," Hawley says.
Daugaard expects requirements to begin on a voluntary basis in July while the state waits on a federal waiver. He also proposed testing resource programs in Minnehaha and Pennington counties due to the readily available jobs in those areas.
Daugaard on Workforce Development
One of Daugaard’s points of emphasis in his final year in office is workforce development. He has worked on the issue with several governors. Daugaard also met with President Donald Trump when the President signed an executive order to encourage apprenticeships.
“Through all of this, I have seen two inter-related problems in South Dakota. From the prospective of businesses and employers, our state does not have enough workers in many skilled fields. And this is a barrier to economic growth. Companies are not able to expand, or that turn away business, simply because they do not have enough skilled workers to do the work. Almost any business owner will identify workforce as a significant concern,” Daugaard says.
He says a good education is a strong element of developing a state workforce.
“We must also see this from the perspective of our young people. We want them to receive an education that allows them to find well-paying, fulfilling jobs here in South Dakota. We have an excellent education system in our state, but we must help all of our young people achieve this goal," Daugaard says.
Daugaard says post-secondary schools and government can join forces to provide an affordable education to students. He mentioned a partnership between Dakota State University, Southeast Tech, the Sioux Falls School District and the State Department of Labor to provide tech security opportunities in South Dakota.
Daugaard on Teacher Pay
Nearly two years after state lawmakers approved a half penny sales tax increase to improve teacher salaries, the governor says he’s pleased with the progress.
“In the first year, average teacher pay in South Dakota grew by eight point eight percent. We saw increases in small districts and large. In fact, some of the largest percentages actually happened in smaller districts. In Faith, average teacher salaries increased 24 point four percent. In Waubay, it increased 26 point four percent. In Leola, average teacher salaries increased by 28 point seven percent,” Daugaard says.
Daugaard shared the program’s direction as part of his State of the State address. He says the state assistance has made one facet of school leaders’ jobs easier.
“I’ve heard from any superintendents who tell me these increases have helped their schools recruit and retrain teachers. And although certain geographic areas or areas of study are difficult, we have improved the situation greatly, Daugaard says.
Daugaard touched on several other facets of education in South Dakota—including continued work on dual-credit programs that combines high school courses with post-secondary schooling.
Daugaard on Nonmeandered Waters
When northeast South Dakota went through serious flooding in the 1990s, several lakes encroached onto area farmland. Producers and recreational lake users have battled for years over whether the additional lake area is for public use. The governor and the State Legislature were forced to deal with the issue in the summer of 2017.
”Past legislative solutions have been elusive. The situation came to a head last march when the Supreme Court said it was "up to the Legislature to decide how these waters would be beneficially used in the public interest." You heard that message, and went to work, and the Open Waters Compromise you passed is already working. Today, more than 99 percent of non-meandered bodies of water with managed fisheries are open for recreation," Daugaard says.
Daugaard says the compromise has created what he calls a “new dialogue” between landowners and the anglers, boaters, and others who would use the lakes. The new law expires this June, but the Governor says lawmakers will have a chance to expand that period by another three years.
GOP Legislative Agenda
Republicans in the South Dakota Legislature will consider several issues as part of their 2018 agenda. They hold a super majority in both the State House and Senate.
House Majority Leader Lee Qualm (R-Platte) says GOP lawmakers are continuing to discuss their priorities for this session. He says balancing the budget is at the top of the list.
"Revenues still are not where they need to be, they're looking better than what they were - but there's a possibility that we may need to make some cuts to end up balancing the budget. The non-meandered water thing - we want to extend that out to 2021. As you can see, it's working; 99 percent of the waters are open. And, the biggest thing to not getting the rest of them done is the landowners are saying 'hey, this might quit in June of '18, so why I am going to make a decision to do anything?'" Qualm says.
Qualm says he will introduce legislation to create and fund a precision agriculture laboratory at South Dakota State University.
House Majority Whip Larry Rhoden (R-Union Center) says lawmakers need to have a careful and measured approach with regard to criminal justice issues. He says the issue of methamphetamine and opioid addiction needs to be addressed.
South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley says he plans to introduce legislation mandating stiffer penalties for meth dealers as one of his proposals to lawmakers.
Democrats' Goals for 2018
State Democrats want to advance legislation on campaign finance reform and economic development on Native American reservations in this year's session.
Senate Minority Leader Billie Sutton (D-Burke) says he agrees with Governor Dennis Daugaard on the importance of education in workforce development, but says Tuesday's State of the State speech left out early childhood education needs.
Sutton says he will introduce legislation designed to make state government more accountable.
"So, I'm bringing a bill on campaign finance reform, exactly the limits that were in I-M 22. So, I'll be bringing that. I'll be bringing a bill that requires state government to keep records longer - especially financial records. Right now, every department does it a little differently, we need a better streamlined process for that. And, I'm also bringing a bill to open up state emails in a better fashion," Sutton says.
Senate Assistant Minority Leader Troy Heinert (D-Mission) says Democrats will stand up for people first in this year's session. Heinert says he will introduce legislation that requires an investment in tribal reservations for economic development.