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Investing in South Dakota’s Future


After yet another incredible year, South Dakota is entering 2021 in one of the strongest financial positions in the country. This is largely due to our strong economy, our approach to COVID, and our respect for freedom and personal responsibility.


Other states are facing much tougher financial situations. They’re planning to raise taxes. They’re borrowing billions of dollars to cover budget shortfalls. They’re looking to Congress to send them more money.


South Dakota is taking a different path. Our economy is strong. After peaking at 11% in April, South Dakota’s unemployment rate is back down to 3.6% in October, the third lowest in the country. But we must remain prudent and conservative moving forward. We cannot spend every dollar that we have. When we do invest in our state, we must invest wisely and strategically.


South Dakota prides itself on fiscal responsibility. I’m recommending paying off $21 million in 2010 debt that the state issued to our technical colleges. The tech colleges will be able to refocus their attention on educating students and preparing them to enter South Dakota’s workforce.


When it comes to infrastructure, the most important investment we can make this year is to finish connecting South Dakota to broadband, and I am requesting a $100 million investment. We must create an environment where people aren’t forced to choose between the modern economy on the one hand, and life in their hometowns on the other.


South Dakotans take tough situations and turn them into great opportunities. On October 31st, our Open Class Beef Complex burned down at the State Fair. Now, we’re building a world class facility in its place, which will bolster South Dakota agriculture for years to come. I’m requesting $12 million for this project.


My budget funds 2.4% inflationary increases for medical providers, K-12 education, technical colleges, and state employees. We’re also providing targeted increases for community-based healthcare providers. And we’re recommending an additional $11 million one-time investment for K-12 education to help provide a final bridge for schools past the pandemic.


We’re helping to fund a new Liberty Center at Ellsworth to give the community a recreational center that will be a connection for our military, their families, and the surrounding community. Anyone in the armed forces will tell you that community and connection are critical for a family that is constantly on the move.


Finally, my budget recommends that we add 2% to our regular 10% budget reserves, and that we put $50 million in a trust fund in order to protect ourselves against future economic hardships. South Dakota’s future is very bright. But we’ve faced real challenges this year. And we will face more in the future. To safeguard against unforeseen economic setbacks, we must continue to take a prudent and conservative approach to state government.


I’ll close with the wise words of President Calvin Coolidge: “I want the people of America to be able to work less for the government and more for themselves. I want them to have the rewards of their own industry. This is the chief meaning of freedom.”


I cannot think of anything more descriptive of my administration’s hope for the people of South Dakota. Under God, the people rule. All of us here are stewards of the people’s hard-earned tax dollars. And the budget I have proposed sets up our children and grandchildren for decades of prosperity.