By: Dana Hess, Community News Service
PIERRE – In his last State of the State address, Gov. Dennis Daugaard highlighted the need for greater workforce development programs in South Dakota.
Daugaard made the speech on Tuesday to a joint session of the South Dakota House and Senate. Term limits will keep Daugaard from running for re-election this year.
“Our state does not have enough workers in skilled positions,” Daugaard said, noting that the lack of skilled workers keeps companies from moving to South Dakota and keeps companies already in the state from expanding.
The governor offered statistics showing that students who fail to receive at least some post-secondary education are far less likely to have good jobs.
A study of South Dakota ninth-graders in 2006 showed that in one cohort of 100 students, 23 failed to graduate from high school and of the 77 graduates, 52 entered post-secondary education. Of that group, less than half had completed their degrees within six years.
“Too many students still do not complete their post-secondary efforts,” Daugaard said.
A state program called Career Launch will help high school students with apprenticeship and job shadowing opportunities. Daugaard said pilot programs are being offered in Sioux Falls, Rapid City, Yankton and Brookings.
Daugaard praised the state’s dual credit system that allows high school students to take courses for college credit.
“Dual credit is a win, win, win,” Daugaard said. Winners include post-secondary schools, students who receive inexpensive college credits and high schools that are allowed to expand their curriculum at no cost.
Daugaard said that last year, South Dakota high school students taking dual credits saved $5.3 million.
The governor’s legislative package will also include a bill designed to streamline professional licensure. He said the Trump administration is concerned about licensing requirements making it tougher for professionals to transfer from one state to another.
Daugaard said he will ask the Legislature to authorize the creation of a professional licensing reciprocity compact with surrounding states.
The governor noted some successes during his two terms in office, including measures that raised taxes for teacher pay and highway projects.
Daugaard said that teacher salaries rose 8.8 percent statewide after the Legislature approved an increase in the sales tax. Higher increases were experienced in Leola, 28.7 percent; Waubay, 26.4 percent; and Faulkton, 24.7 percent.
“We have improved the situation greatly,” Daugaard said.
As for transportation, Daugaard highlighted 298 projects that cost $750 million since a variety of funding mechanisms were put in place. He also noted that this year there are 37 bridge projects planned.
Some of the most sustained applause during the governor’s speech was for firefighters who battled the wildfire at Custer State Park. Fighting the fires were more than 340 firefighters, Daugaard said, along with staff from Custer State Park and area ranchers.
No lives or homes were lost in the fire. “This could have been much, much worse,” Daugaard said.
The open waters compromise reached by the Legislature during a special session last year has been a success, Daugaard said. He will ask the Legislature to move the law’s sunset date from June of this year to June 2021to give the new law more time work.
It’s likely that South Dakota will know this month whether the U.S. Supreme Court will consider the state’s case calling for all online businesses to pay the state’s sales tax. Other states have joined the case, and Daugaad said, “We can be proud that South Dakota is a leader.”
While he admitted at a news conference following the speech that he has a limited knowledge of craft beer, Daugaard said he will offer legislation to raise the limits on how much beer craft brewers can make. He said the current limit is 5,000 barrels, far less than craft brewers are allowed to make in surrounding states.
He also promised legislation that would clean up the state’s statutes dealing with alcohol, many of them written after the repeal of prohibition.
The laws need to be updated, Daugaard said, “so they make sense for a 21st century economy.”
The Trump administration is open to allowing states waivers that would require able-bodied Medicaid recipients to work. Daugaard said he will ask for a waiver that will allow the state to make that requirement.
The measure would be applied to low-income, able-bodied parents who receive Medicaid payments. Daugaard said the requirement would be applied to about 4,500 South Dakotans on Medicaid.
As a public servant, Daugaard said he spent six years in the state senate, eight years as lieutenant governor and he will serve eight years as governor. He recalled the first State of the State message he heard as a state senator in 1997.
In that speech, he said Gov. Bill Janklow admonished lawmakers not to be concerned with that day’s sound bite but instead ask themselves if their work in Pierre will make a difference for the state in the next 10 years.
According to Daugaard, Janklow said, “If you’re not a contributor, you’re a destroyer.”
Daugaard asked legislators to be contributors and work toward making South Dakota “a better place next year than it was today.”