Governor Kristi Noem addressed the South Dakota Legislature this afternoon. Several of her words deserve highlighting. (All quotes come from the transcript Governor Noem provided to the press ahead of her speech.)
We won’t raise taxes.
Governor Noem made this statement with no ifs, ands, or buts. Republican voters, I expect you to hold her to this absolute promise.
…over the last two years, I was able to do a lot of listening with a lot of South Dakotans.
I heard story after story from South Dakota families about the love they have for our state. They love our culture, our wide open spaces, they love their towns and their churches. I do too. But many families are struggling to get ahead. Parents lie awake at night and wonder if they are a medical emergency away from financial disaster. Or if they’ll ever be able to put money into a savings account for a new home.
Families struggling to get ahead? That’s not what Governor Noem’s party said when we fought to raise the minimum wage.
Parents fearing a financial disaster from a medical emergency? That’s not what Noem talked about last year when she voted to take health insurance away from millions of Americans. That’s not what her party talked about when it refused to expand Medicaid in South Dakota. Is that what she’ll talk about when she tells Attorney General Ravnsborg to pull out of the lawsuit his predecessor Marty Jackley joined to repeal the Affordable Care Act?
Folks struggling to put money away to buy a house? That’s not what Noem talked about as she let the Trump shutdown happen and denied 800,000 hard-working Americans the chance to stay ahead of their bills and keep building their savings.
…we are going to commit state revenues to closing the broadband gap.
This is the third plank of Governor Noem’s lead-off proposal to expand rural broadband access. The Governor rightly tackles this issue: substandard Internet access will stop families and businesses from moving here as surely as if water or electricity only flowed on odd-numbered days.
But if we’re committing state revenues and we’re not raising taxes, we’re going to spend less on something else.
My family has been blessed with prime pheasant habitat on some of our land. Of course, we have worked hard to preserve those grounds over the years and have long participated in the CRP program. But as land values have increased, areas like ours have begun to disappear, gravely affecting pheasant populations. It’s hard to blame folks for making those decisions when land values are high but it has an impact on how and where our pheasant population can nest and produce the next season’s birds. In fact, statewide pheasant populations have fallen 65 percent in the last decade.
While in the U.S. House, I authored a provision to increase CRP acres to 29 million acres, a priority for many South Dakota outdoorsmen. As Governor, I will continue to push federal policymakers to enhance CRP even further.
Translation: the free market leads us to destroy things we need and love. Government must intervene to check that destruction.
First off, we’ll work to increase resources for habitat management – without raising taxes. Maintaining and improving habitat is essential to the future of pheasant hunting in South Dakota. So today, I am directing the Department of Game, Fish and Parks to explore outside-the-box, voluntary funding solutions, such as an expanded Hunt for Habitat program, in which a limited number of hunting tags would be reserved at premium pricing. Programs like this have proven exceptionally lucrative in neighboring states. All proceeds would again go directly to habitat.
Since we absolutely will not raise any taxes, we need to come up with gimmicks to fund our priorities. Instead of asking every South Dakotan to shoulder some of the burden of maintaining public goods, we have to offer treats to the luxury class. Heavens forbid we just tax the rich to protect public goods; we have to make sure they get special privileges.
We need South Dakotans thinking about pheasant habitat, not just in October as we’re cleaning up our shotguns, but year round. To raise visibility and more funds, I’ll ask the Division of Motor Vehicles and Game, Fish and Parks to develop a specialty pheasant license plate program in which, again, all proceeds would go directly toward habitat management.
I see no harm in selling more fancy license plates. But pheasant imagery already so saturates South Dakota mindspace that I’m not sure added visibility represents a turnaround solution.
Pheasant hunting is a statewide tradition with statewide economic impact, so maintaining and growing the industry requires statewide involvement. This means we’re going to get aggressive on predator control with a bounty program. Young people will have a chance to get out there and help reduce the threats to our pheasant population.
Bounties for varmints? Load me up! But kids, check how much you’re spending on ammo, how much time you’re spending in the field, and how much you get per varmint, and calculate whether Kristi’s Kritter Kitty is paying out better than the minimum wage you can get making pizza at Casey’s.
…we’re going to crowd source habitat solutions. Taking advantage of online capabilities, my administration will expand the capabilities at habitat.sd.gov to ensure every South Dakotan, not just those on assigned advisory boards or in Pierre, can directly contribute to the policymaking process. Should your ideas be implemented, I’d like to see the commission waive your hunting license fees for that year.
I’m all for this plan… but employees of the state and their families can’t enter to win, right? And why stop at pheasant habitat? If we can come up with pheasant policy by Twitter, let’s set up that Legislative wiki page and let citizens draft, amend, and debate bills on the LRC website! Contrary to Noem’s philosophy, we don’t need prizes: the satisfaction of participating in democracy and making our state greater is reward enough in itself.
…few things are as important as kickstarting our economy.
Translation: Our economy stinks. Trumponomics isn’t working for Trump voters.
We owe it to ourselves to encourage growth and development in all communities, large and small. We are, after all, only as strong as our weakest community.
Translation: The Noem Administration will not support any effort to defund or consolidate small schools. Every town that has a school must keep it, or all of South Dakota will be as weak as Eureka, Herreid, and other dwindling rural villages struggling to keep their schools open.
This kickstart begins by lifting government burdens from small businesses [sic] owners and making it easier to work and create new opportunities that allow South Dakotans to prosper. By expanding on the strong business climate we have built through a low-tax, low-regulation environment, we’ll businesses room to grow.
Wait a minute: according to the long-standing marketing line that Governor Noem repeats in the second half of that statement, we’ve already resisted or peeled back more taxes and regulations than most other states. Are there really that many burdens to lift from small business in South Dakota? If so, how did previous Republicans Governors and Legislatures miss them?
Now is the time to begin the search for the “Next Big Thing” for South Dakota.
As many of you know, in the early 1980’s, Governor Janklow had the foresight to identify and to target the credit card industry as an area in which South Dakota could compete and win at a national level. We changed our approach to regulating that industry, ushering in a tremendous expansion of not only credit card processing, but our financial services sector more generally. We created thousands of good jobs. Today, South Dakota is home to $3.1 trillion in bank assets – more than any other state in the country. Our trust industry oversees billions more, providing still more South Dakotans with reliable, high-paying jobs.
If bringing in the financial services industry was the last “Big Thing” then it’s time to start looking for the “Next Big Thing.” Because we can’t stop moving forward. We must look ahead to the emerging opportunities that can power growth for the next generation.
Wait! I found some regulations hindering big business: maybe the next big biotechnical thing could be stem cell research. Repeal South Dakota’s ban on human embryonic stem cell research, and watch T. Denny Sanford, who made his millions on that First (Morally Questionable But Who Cares) Big Thing, bring all sorts of high-paying research jobs to our state… and maybe a cure for cancer. That would be a whole lot bigger than credit cards. (I get a free hunting license for that, right?)
In the Black Hills, the U.S. Air Force’s rollout 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, provide a platform for attracting additional military-connected businesses, and increase Ellsworth’s already substantial $300 million annual impact on our economy. Ensuring Box Elder, Rapid City, and the Black Hills region are equipped to capitalize on Ellsworth’s rapid expansion must be a priority for us all.
Not a word about the national security merits of another big bang-bang; just keep the big-government gravy rolling! Once again, South Dakota needs big government! And thank you, neighbors, for spending more taxes on more bombers, so we South Dakotans don’t have to raise our taxes!
As I tour our state’s businesses and meet with employers, what I ahve heard from them is encouraging. Outside of ag, business is good….
Wait: what happened to those folks struggling to get ahead, fearing medical bankruptcy, and unable to save up to buy houses? Oh, that’s right: this is Kristi Noem talking, not a statesperson from whom I can expect coherence from beginning to end of a speech.
…and they’d like to expand. Again and again, though, I heard the same challenge that is holding them back: workforce shortages.
And again and again, we hear from our leaders what we heard from Noem today: a passel of proposals to check that workforce shortage—more cheap houses built by prison labor, fewer professional licensure requirements, continued vo-tech scholarships, more employer propaganda in middle school and apprenticeships (read again, cheap labor) in high school—but not one word about the most obvious free-market solution, the one that, if business is good and employers can afford to expand, is easy to do: quit whining and pay higher wages.
I would like our high schools to join together each year to hold a “Week of Work.” This will be a special week when every high school student will get out of the classroom to experience a day on the job.
Fewer requirements for business, but more requirements for schools. Sure, that makes sense.
Civics need to reemerge. From grade school to the universities. Interim Secretary Jones is a professor of history and he will be key to this effort. This year, as a first step, I will be bringing legislation to require that every high school graduate be able to pass the United States citizenship exam.
Prepping for that test will take at least a week. Looks like Week of Work will have to wait… unless you’re going to advocate lengthening the school year, which will mean spending more on schools, which will mean raising taxes… oh! but we’re not doing that! The Noem Administration are zero-sum gamers, so take your pick: what are you going to cut to make room for the things you want?
By the way, Noem’s address turned to “Improving Education” fourth, after broadband, pheasants, and The Next Big Thing, and even then only twinned with “Developing Our Workforce.” Governor Noem continues her party’s treatment of education as mostly a means to other, greater ends. She does invoke General Beadle—”Not for wage earning alone, not for money making alone, must we educate”—but she says not one word about directing more state resources toward education.
Turning to meth, Noem blames Mexico and weaker border security for our surging drug issues:
…meth is rarely made in South Dakota anymore, the vast majority of this meth is coming from Mexico. Our meth epidemic is the price we are paying for our nation’s failure to adequately secure our southern border.
There are no easy answers to this issue… but we need to do more. And we need to focus on three key areas: education, enforcement, and treatment.
Notice that the cheap Trumpist potshot doesn’t cohere with Noem’s half-grasp of policy clarity: our meth epidemic is not a result of an insufficiently walled southern border or those dastardly Mexicanos. The key to reducing drug use is not fighting supply but cutting demand.
But dang: that’s going to take money, and Noem asks for it:
…I am proposing that we expand prevention and treatment programs. We need to do more to educate our young people about the effects of meth and give them strategies to avoid it. In the past these efforts have relied on grant funding, but I will be asking for dedicated general funds to carry a strong and consistent message, especially to our young people.
Noem doesn’t ask for more money for education in general (which provides the general skills with the best shot at expanding opportunities, reducing despair, and keeping kids away from drugs), but she does ask for more money specifically to tell kids even more often, Just Say No.
As a lifelong farmer and rancher…
…I’ll utilize my experience as a lifelong producer….
Lifelong? Come on: Kristi hasn’t legitimately dirtied any Carhartt coveralls in this decade.
Farmers want trade, not aid. Producers don’t want federal bailouts. We [We?! really?!] crave expanded market opportunities. And I believe we’ll get there with this Administration.
Wait: we were there under the Obama Administration. Farmers had more access to foreign markets before Donald Trump started whacking our trade partners with chest-thumping tariffs. Farmers didn’t need tariff reparations before Donald Trump. Why should we believe Donald Trump will take South Dakota farmers anywhere good when he has spent the last two years taking them everywhere bad?
Many Americans and many South Dakotans are losing their trust in government… stories of government ineptitude and downright scandal don’t help matters much. I hear you. I’m with you.
Holy cow: Governor Noem just endorsed my last decade-plus of blogging. People don’t trust South Dakota government. People see ineptitude and scandal in South Dakota government. And that ineptitude and scandal have been brought to you by the people in charge: Governor Noem’s Republican Party.
Fact-based reporting must be valued and encouraged in order to uphold the integrity of government entities. To that end, I want to see a commonsense Reporter Shield law, protecting the constitutional right to a free and independent press.
Well. Thank you. Maybe I can take a day off work and go to Pierre the day Governor Noem signs that bill and get a free and independent interview.
I want to take heart that Kristi Noem would mention journalists’ rights in her first State of the State address and not embryo rights. But don’t think Governor Noem is all that excited about the First Amendment:
I am sure that there will be issues that arise during my tenure as governor that will require the strength and resolve of our first responders, our military and our law enforcement. I know that they will be up to the task. I know that they are training and preparing right now, even today, for the unexpected as well as the expected.
One of those issues that we do expect, is the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline through South Dakota. Let me be very clear on this: I want the construction of this pipeline to be safe, clean and efficient. We will make sure that people, water and the environment are protected. My administration will work with the tribes, the companies, and as necessary, law enforcement, to make this as uneventful as possible.
Translation: Don’t you darned Indians kick up a stink about TransCanada’s pipeline. They bought me some really nice hors d’oeurves for my inaugural ball.
Governor Noem’s first State of the State Address leaves me hopeful of just one thing: Kristi Noem will continue to say plenty of things for honest bloggers to write about and straighten out.
But one thing’s for sure: “We won’t raise taxes.” Forget funding Aspire, Al. Governor Noem gets what she wants, and you’re going to have to cut other things to do it, because she said, “We won’t raise taxes.”
Vocabulary Note: “We need to do more to empower families. Every child has different needs and talents, and we all know that family involvement gets better results. The All-City Elementary School in Sioux Falls is an example of this and a model for others to emulate. One of its core tenants and requirements is a high level of parent involvement.” All-City Elementary has no tenants, Kristi. It has tenets. Tenants are the people who reside in dwellings. Tenets are the beliefs that reside in our souls.