Lawmakers react to the Governor's State of the State Address
By Jackelyn Severin
Governor Mike Rounds gave perhaps his last State of the State address Tuesday as Governor of South Dakota. In spite of the looming budget problems lawmakers will address in the 38 day session, Rounds focused his speech on positive achievements made by his administration, lawmakers and all South Dakotan’s in the past seven years.
The State of the State was full of optimism as Governor Rounds reflected on his years in office. South Dakota has seen many ups and downs in the past seven years including severe weather, wars and a recession. Rounds commends lawmakers and all South Dakotans on their resilience in the face of adversity and ability to come together and prosper in tough times. Rounds says accomplishments in education, business and energy projects makes South Dakota prosperous compared to larger states.
“The most recent business facilities ranking report measures 20 factors of quality of life including: low crime rates, material well-being, job security, availability of recreation, health care, education and the cost of living. They rate South Dakota number one in quality of life.”
Rounds did not talk about the projected budget deficit but he did ask lawmakers to curb spending this session and avoid burdening South Dakotans with tax increases. This says Republican Bob Faehn will force lawmakers to make cuts.
“Well you know it’s going to be difficult no matter where we go. I know one thing we don’t want to cut K-12 education and obviously there’s certain things in Medicaid that we can’t and won’t cut. After that I think most anything is on the table,” says Faehn.
Some lawmakers, like Republican Senator Dave Knudson of Sioux Falls, wishes the Governor would have focused more on the problems legislators will face in the next few months.
“The speech really did not address at all our serious budget problems which is going to be the dominate and overwhelming issue of this session. He did make reference to the more than one-hundred million dollar deficit that we have staring us in the face in 2011 and so I think that the speech was a little thin on actual solutions to our problems but gave a fair recitation of the past,” says Knudson.
While lawmakers believe a positive focus was appropriate for the Governor’s final State of the State, Democratic Representative Bernie Hunhoff from Yankton says now legislators must get work on balancing the budget.
Hunhoff says, “We’re in a real financial problem. We need to work our way out of it with some long range fiscal planning and whether we cut this program or use this fund you know we can agree on that. The bigger thing is how are we going to come up with some real long range planning that makes sense for the people of South Dakota and allows us to really grow and do all of the great things that the Governor talked about today.”
Hunhoff’s fellow Democrat, Senator Scott Heidepriem of Sioux Falls agrees. He says his caucus has laid out some solutions for the state’s budget problems.
“We’re going to cap spending with a bill at three percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less, that’s a standard that we impose on schools and county commissions. We’re going to stop the practice of pay to play. We’re going to reduce the number of FTE’s. We have added one FTE, one full-time position every other day, every 48 hours of this administration in a state whose population has remained about the same from the beginning to the end. It’s not bad to change priorities and say we’re going to emphasize this program and that’s going to take more resources but when you do that you need to find the resources from somewhere within state government that’s our goal and that’s something we can actually do,” says Heidepriem.
In his speech Rounds credits an increase in valued-added agriculture for stabilizing South Dakota’s economy. He says in 2009, South Dakota farmers set new production records despite severe weather damage.
“Government primarily provides certain services to people but our farmers, ranchers, processors are growing, creating and producing the food and fuels that are the basic necessities of life for us and for many millions of other people,” says Rounds.
Democratic Representative and farmer from Wilmot, Jason Frerichs, appreciates Rounds statements but he says now lawmakers need to look to the future and pass policies that help the Ag. Industry grow even more.
“And being larger in terms of Agriculture does not always mean just strictly on size it might mean on ways how we can diversify our operation which could be in areas such as agritourism such as looking at sustainable agriculture opportunities but the best thing I think to come out of all of that is to have more young people back in our rural communities in South Dakota,” says Frerichs.
Rounds agrees that keeping young people in South Dakota should be the goal for decisions lawmakers make this session. He calls that home grown economic development.
The 2010 Legislative Session ends March 12th.
Member Stations can download the audio file here.