PIERRE, S.D. — South Dakota’s government officials will need to find ways to grow the economy, especially in the agricultural sector, to provide increases to K-12 schools, providers and state employees.
That was part of the message South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem shared with state lawmakers during the State of the State address on Tuesday, Jan. 14.
Overall, Noem’s goal was to find ways to grow the state’s economy by looking at long-term outcomes rather than seeking short-term solutions.
Noem touted the state’s successes over the past year, which included increasing government transparency and protecting the public’s right to know by passing a reporter’s shield law. She also described the efforts that have gone into bridging the broadband internet gap in rural, remote areas and said she hopes those efforts continue.
“In March, you approved $5 million to be used as matching funds for broadband improvement. The Connect South Dakota program, which launched in May, brought in a total of $12.2 million,” Noem said.
“Because the state now has a plan in place, South Dakota companies have been awarded additional points on their applications for USDA Reconnect grants. This is a federal program that provides funding for telecommunications updates. In December, this federal program awarded another $9.5 million in high-speed broadband infrastructure that will create or improve connectivity for more than 1,750 homes in rural South Dakota,” she said.
Noem said that the state’s $5 million investment turned into a $25 million investment in under-served areas that connected 6,500 homes and 150 businesses to broadband Internet.
Noem stated that since her 2021 budget address in December, revenues have “been slightly higher than expected”.
“My No. 1 priority with additional, on-going money will be to provide increases to K-12 schools, providers and state employees,” Noem continued.
“In order to do this for many years to come, we must work together to find ways to grow our state’s economy. With our eyes fixed to the future, we can ensure that every South Dakotan can build their life here, get good jobs, make a living and support their families.”
Noem emphasized the importance of agriculture in the state’s economy and the need to find more ways to strengthen and broaden the ag industry. Last year, the state focused on three key areas in agriculture: precision ag, production ag and value-added ag, Noem said.
Noem outlined a plan for the next decade that partners private industry, South Dakota State University, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and the state to support bioprocessing research and development.
“We must invest in the future of ag in our state, diversifying operations for our farmers, ranchers, and timber producers. Our graduates will have a deeper understanding of how biofuels and agriculture can drive change across the globe,” Noem said.
Noem also expressed her reservations on legalizing hemp, but reiterated her willingness to sign legislation that includes reliable enforcement guidelines, responsible regulation regarding licensing and inspections, a permitting process to allow for transportation of it $3.5 million to fund the one-time costs and ongoing costs.
Noem said she remains committed to addressing the needs of the Native American community, specifically with the Indian Health Service.
“In fact, for the first time ever, we have put state-employed nurses in three IHS facilities across the state to better coordinate healthcare. As a result, healthcare is better managed for patients that are referred by IHS to another provider,” Noem said.
Noem also awarded six law enforcement officers with the Governor’s Award for Heroism. The officers are the first recipients of the award, Noem said.
Sturgis Police Officers Dylan Goetch and Christopher Schmoker were honored with a standing ovation, along with the award, for entering a structure fire and saving a man’s life in May 2018.
Noem also honored four officers with the Chamberlain Police Department for rescuing three survivors out of the wreckage of a plane crash on Nov. 30.
“Going forward, a person who shows courage and compassion under extraordinary circumstances, such as those that have saved a life, will be eligible for nomination,” Noem said. “In this way, we are recognizing our citizens’ courage and bravery.”