By Dana Hess
For the South Dakota Newspaper Association
The next governor of South Dakota will face challenges brought on by a proliferation of laws, a poorly focused educational system and river pollution.
Gov. Dennis Daugaard, in the last year of his last term, shared his ideas about the challenges his successor will face when he met with newspaper editors and publishers as part of Newspaper Day at the Legislature. The event is sponsored by the South Dakota Newspaper Association.
Daugaard said he was happy that some legislators have presented bills designed to streamline South Dakota laws. He said the state should be vigilant about how many laws it enacts and not follow the example of the federal government.
“There is no one in the federal government who comprehends the breadth of the law,” Daugaard said.
The governor said he regretted not realizing until late in his last term that an education system set up to send students to a four-year college doesn’t serve the best interests of many students.
“A four-year degree is not the path that’s successful for most of our students,” Daugaard said.
Another late realization was the state of some of South Dakota’s rivers that have been polluted by silt run-off.
“We’ve got some rivers, they’re in bad shape,” Daugaard said.
In a wide ranging news conference, the governor also discussed:
Internet sales tax
Daugaard said he has no idea how much money will be coming to the state if it wins its Supreme Court case regarding the remittance of sales tax on internet sales. When South Dakota passed the law that’s being challenged in the high court—requiring internet businesses to register with the state and remit sale tax—about 100 businesses signed up to pay sales tax.
“We know we’re collecting some of the Internet sales,” Daugaard said.
If the state should win its case and sales taxes are paid on all internet sales, Daugaard said the first $20 million in extra funding would be used to reduce the state sales tax by a 10th of a cent. The next $20 million would reduce the state sales tax by another 10th of a cent.
Daugaard has proposed a work requirement for able-bodied people on Medicaid.
“I’ve always wanted a work requirement,” Daugaard said. “Those who can work, should.”
Of the 120,000 people on Medicaid in the state, Daugaard estimated that the work requirement would apply to only about 2,000 low-income parents.
“It’s not a large group,” Daugaard said.
He said a voluntary program will start on July 1 to help those Medicaid recipients find jobs or training.
Executive branch vs. Legislature
As a former legislator and a two-term governor, Daugaard has worked in the legislative and executive branches. Asked if the executive branch had too much power, Daugaard said that any governor who became “too autocratic” would face the wrath of a Legislature that would likely be able to muster enough votes to override a veto.
The governor said a part-time, citizen Legislature, like the one in South Dakota, is good for the state.
“I think you stay closer to the people of your district,” Daugaard said.
Helping meth addicts
Daugaard said the state is responding to the meth epidemic with more treatment options.
“I do think we are seeing more treatment availability,” Daugaard said, noting a substance abuse benefit will be added to Medicaid.
“We’re going to change that,” Daugaard said. “We’re going to change that this year.
Two bills offered during this session of the Legislature seek to move public notices out of smaller newspapers and allow them to be published on the internet.
Daugaard said he would oppose those bills, noting his opposition to such bills in the past.
“Many of our citizens don’t access news through the internet,” Daugaard said.
Newspaper editors and publishers in attendance burst into applause when Daugaard said if the legislation reached his desk he would veto it.
Plans for retirement
Daugaard, who will be 65 in June, said he has no firm plans for retirement, other than refusing all offers right after he leaves office.
After 22 years in government Daugaard said, “For six months I plan to do nothing.”
He knows he’ll be spending more time with his five grandchildren.
He also said he’s done with politics.
“I plan on no further political office,” Daugaard said.