[Sergeant At Arms] "Ladies and Gentleman of the House and Senate, family and friends in the gallery, listening public and viewing public - please welcome, the Honorable Governor Kristi Noem [applause]."
For the first time in South Dakota's nearly 130-year history, a woman is introduced to a joint session of the Legislature as the state's chief executive. Governor Kristi L. Noem delivered her first State of the State address Tuesday at the South Dakota Capitol in Pierre. She began her remarks by telling lawmakers and a statewide audience South Dakota is in very good shape.
“Just how good do we have it in South Dakota? Let’s compare us to a few other states. Illinois is forecasting a one-point-two billion dollar deficit; and their pensions are only 40 percent funded. Connecticut’s economy is shrinking, it’s been shrinking for a decade. And their revenue growth has stalled out. New Jersey has yearly budget deficits as far as the eye can see. Meanwhile, in South Dakota—thanks to the strong leadership of Governor Dennis Daugaard and many in the Legislature, we have rid our state of an annual structural deficit. We rely solely on ongoing revenue streams to settle ongoing expenses. Our state pension plan is fully funded; our credit rating is Triple A—it’s the highest rating of any state.”
Aiming to Attract New Industries The Governor says she and her administration are looking for "the next big thing." Noem says South Dakota's economic condition improved greatly when Governor Bill Janklow and the Legislature developed laws to make it attractive for the credit card industry to headquarter in the Sioux Falls area. Noem says Ellsworth Air Force Base is allowing for a definite growth period in West River.
”In the Black Hills, the US Air Force’s roll-out of the next-generation B-21 Raider Bomber will also bring with it a surge of activity in and around Ellsworth Air Force Base. This growth will open up new opportunities for good jobs, and provide a platform for attracting additional military-connected businesses, and increase Ellsworth’s already substantial 300 million dollar impact on our economy. Ensuring that Box Elder, Rapid City and the Black Hills can capitalize on Ellsworth’s rapid expansion must be a priority for all of us.”
Noem says her goals include helping companies grow their businesses through a workforce that can afford suitable housing. She says she wants lawmakers and economic development leaders to streamline licensure procedures to encourage new and growing businesses in South Dakota.
Adjustments Related To Agriculture
Governor Kristi Noem acknowledges that the past few years have been difficult for South Dakota’s farmers and ranchers. But in her inaugural state of the state address, Noem says her administration will continue to develop the state’s ag economy.
Noem’s effort starts with consolidating state-level expert positions.
“This year, we will focus on growth in the ag economy by transferring Ag Development Representatives from the Department of Agriculture to my office of economic development. This makes sense because ag development is economic development.”
Noem says the two departments have performed similar functions in recent years. Agriculture contributes more than 25 billion dollars to the state’s economy.
Noem also intends to make use of her federal connections from her years in Congress—starting with President Trump. She says ag issues aren’t top of mind in Washington D.C.
“Fifty years ago, there were more than 200 rural congressional districts in the House of Representatives. Now, just over 30 remain.”
Noem recognized South Dakota’s elected officials in Congress, including her successor, Rep. Dusty Johnson. She also plans to further ag through expanding markets and protecting property rights.
Rural Broadband Goals
Noem says she has a plan to allow high-speed, broadband Internet service in more areas of the state. The Governor says improving South Dakota's online infrastructure is something that needs to start now.
“I’ve heard it said that 65 percent of the children in elementary school today—will work at jobs that don’t even exist now. These jobs of the future, the jobs they will depend on to take care of families of their own, will almost certainly depend on access to technology—particularly, the Internet. And we must make sure that we work on that access now. Raising our children with the tools such as broadband is our responsibility as parents and as citizens.”
Noem says she has heard it costs as much as 15 thousand dollars a mile to bring broadband services to rural areas. She says some have even discouraged her from trying to stretch the service across the state. She says it’s too important to give up on.
“Well first, we’re gonna set some goals. Goals not only for our homes and our businesses for broadband internet up to an acceptable access, but also ensure that we remain at the forefront as technology develops. We’ll use those goals to drive our policy, and ultimately our state’s investments. I feel strongly anytime we’re talking about taxpayer-funded investment, that we should be investing for the long term.”
Noem says people in urban areas take high-speed online services for granted. She says it’s just as important for people in South Dakota’s rural areas to have the technology as well.
Transparency Noem's campaign include a pledge to improve government transparency. She says it's the cornerstone of her policy initiatives, and she commits to creating the most transparent administration the state has ever seen. Noem says that effort includes making debates and board meetings easily accessible through free services like YouTube and Facebook Live. She plans to make other materials available online as well.
“We’ll modernize and expand existing transparency websites by adding all agendas, minutes, and livestreams to a centralized online location. If my cabinet secretaries and other administration leaders don’t stay on top of this, I’m going to make them donate to my pheasant habitat fund [laughs, applause fade out].”
Noem also notes the importance of fact-based reporting in maintaining government accountability. She charges the Legislature to have what she describes as a "common sense" reporter shield law on her desk by the end of the session. She says such a law protects the constitutional right to a free and independent press.
Lawmakers Respond Governor Noem's remarks on rural broadband and preserving pheasant habitat earned sustained applause during her address. She also received a standing ovation from the joint session after sharing her intent to require high schoolers to pass the United States citizenship exam. Democratic State Senator Susan Wismer of Britton says her party can agree on the broadband and habitat ideas, but she says one issue was noteably absent.
“Really, I guess the elephant in the room for a lot of us is the trouble our nursing homes are in all around the state, and there was really no mention whatsoever of nursing homes and if she plans on supporting funding that will keep some of them from failing.”
State Representative Jean Hunhoff is a Republican from Yankton and the vice chair of the House Committee on Appropriations. She's excited by Noem's initatives and focus on family.
“We’re gonna have to look at how we’re going to be able to support and have the resources for her programs. And that means that maybe some of the programs that traditionally have had some revenues going toward them, that may be shifting. So priorities may be—but I think it’s a new and exciting era for the state of South Dakota and her vision for our future.”
Hunhoff says Governor Noem must present her official budget recommendations by the tenth legislative day according to state statute. After that it’s up to the legislature. SDPB will provide complete coverage of this year's legislative session on radio, television, online, and through SD.net.