Noem’s State of the State Address kicks off the 98th Legislative Session

Gov. Kristi Noem laid out her budget plans in the annual address in Pierre. Friday, indicating...
Gov. Kristi Noem laid out her budget plans in the annual address in Pierre. Friday, indicating that her first priority for the 2023 Legislative Session is eliminating the 4.5 percent sales tax on groceries.
Published: Jan. 10, 2023 at 11:47 AM CST|Updated: Jan. 10, 2023 at 11:54 AM CST
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PIERRE, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - For the following 37 days, South Dakota legislators will meet in Pierre for the 98th South Dakota Legislative Session.

Gov. Kristi Noem’s State of the State Address can be viewed below.

Key points from Gov. Noem’s State of the State Address

Gov. Noem said South Dakota is growing. We are thriving. And we are strong.

• Our state’s agriculture industry is now a $32 billion industry, and it’s responsible for 1 in 5 jobs in the state.

• Tourism, financial services, and other industries are continuing to grow, as well.

• South Dakota has the most registered hunters per-capita of any state

• We are a great state to live and work as a soldier, an airman, and a veteran

More on our Army

Both our Army and Air Guard units have led the nation, winning award after award for best units in the country. This past month, we deployed the 109th Regional Support Group to the Middle East as part of Operation Inherent Resolve. But the National Guard stands ready here at home, too. When the winter snow and bitter cold hit our state just before Christmas, the men and women in uniform took time away from their families to help other families in need across the state, including all the tribal reservations that needed assistance.

Cutting grocery tax

The price of groceries has increased so dramatically over the past two years that families are unprepared when they see the final bill in the checkout line. About 1 in every 4 shoppers have had to put something back because they can’t pay for everything. South Dakota revenues continue to grow, in December, revenues have us up another $10 million above legislatively adopted estimates, allowing more funds to go towards cutting grocery tax.

Unemployment and SD workforce

In 2022, our unemployment rate was the lowest it’s been in our state’s history, but we still have 23,000 open jobs in our state.

During her first year in office, Noem signed legislation that recognized occupational licenses for military spouses who moved to our state. Then, two years ago, in response to the challenge of filling healthcare jobs, Noem proposed legislation recognizing the healthcare licenses of folks moving here from other states. This legislation was expanded to other professions and helped us fill jobs.

When other states have done this, they have seen their workforces grow almost immediately. Arizona’s workforce has grown by about 5,000 since the law was implemented. Thousands more in the future are sure to come, as well. That’s the kind of drastic workforce boost that we need here in South Dakota.

Apprenticeships in South Dakota

Just last month, the Department of Labor & Regulation awarded four grants to create four apprenticeship pipelines for high schoolers across the state. The four recipients were Bear Butte Gardens for agriculture, Belle Fourche School District for healthcare, Harrisburg School District for agriculture, and Dakota State University for education. Later this week, they’ll announce even more awards.

More and more businesses are realizing the value of these apprenticeship programs. Noem highlighted the Lemmonmade Butcher Shop in Lemmon, which has incorporated an apprenticeship program to hire and train new staff. They initially hired an employee named Jesse, who is now supervising more people going through the program, allowing the owner of the business to take his first-ever vacation.

If you are interested in launching one at your business, reach out to Gov. Noem and stay tuned for more news about how we’re expanding our apprenticeship program later this year.

Career & business planning in South Dakota

• In the last year, Dakota State University’s cyber research capabilities will bring 500 six-figure jobs to Sioux Falls.

• Gevo’s Net-Zero 1 Site in Lake Preston is the first-ever billion-dollar investment in South Dakota. They will literally turn corn into jet fuel.

• Valley Queen in Milbank broke ground last year on a $200 million expansion that will create an additional 140 jobs for the community.

• South Dakota’s total milk production has risen 11% in the last year, and that will continue to increase once this facility is completed.

• The Governor’s Office of Economic Development facilitated $1.7 billion in new economic investments in South Dakota over the last year, creating 2,400 new jobs.

• My Department of Labor will be bringing a bill to revise employer contribution rates to the unemployment trust fund. This will bring an estimated $18 million in savings to South Dakota businesses over the next couple of years.

Tourism in South Dakota

Noem said we don’t have the final data yet, but it looks like South Dakota set another record for visitor spending in 2022. Our airport arrivals increased by about 10% over last year. Tourism revenue decreases the tax burden by $1,000 per South Dakota family. The tourism industry also supports about 57,000 jobs.

This year, the Department of Tourism will launch a dedicated Native American tourism marketing campaign. Beginning in 2023, bus tours will bring domestic and international visitors to Pine Ridge, Rosebud, Standing Rock, and Milk’s Camp. We will continue to emphasize telling tribal stories. They are a key part of our state’s rich history and heritage, Noem said.

People who visit South Dakota also come to hunt and fish. Access to hunting opportunities has never been greater. More than 50,000 private acres have become available for public hunting since Noem took office. 15,000 new habitat acres have been added to promote strong wildlife numbers. Momentum continues to build – our most recent pheasant harvest shows more total birds and birds per hunter than the 5-year average. And in 2022, we set a record for the most nonresident fishing licenses sold.

Every year, more and more South Dakota youth are participating in our Nest Predator Bounty Program. Youth participants jumped up to 32% of total program participants this year. These kids are discovering a passion for the great outdoors.

South Dakota families

Three years ago, we worked together to pass legislation to provide paid family leave for state employees. This gave families the opportunity to bond with newborn and adopted children – and it put us in a better position to attract top talent to our state government.

Currently, the state provides paid family leave benefits at 60% of an employee’s salary for eight weeks. Noem proposes we extend that benefit to 100% of the salary for 12 weeks. And this new family leave policy won’t just cover new births or adoptions – it will also cover taking care of a child, spouse, or parent with a serious health condition or a situation where a spouse is called to active-duty military service.

This will be a tremendous benefit for state employees – but it won’t stop with them. Private sector companies will have the opportunity to be a part of the state’s risk pool, as well. This will make it much cheaper for companies to offer this benefit to their employees. And the more people that buy-in, the lower the cost for everyone. My budget provides $20 million in grants to incentivize private sector companies to participate for the first few years.

Pregnancy and Post-Partum Care

My budget also proposes $1.1 million to help give pregnancy and postpartum care to moms who are Medicaid recipients. Pregnant moms who are at risk of poor birth outcomes will receive intensive care management. This will help moms have a healthy pregnancy – and this care will extend after birth.

Moms involved in this program have babies who are less likely to be admitted to the NICU. And after birth, these moms will be able to join the Bright Start program, which you helped provide funding for last year. This proves our commitment to helping moms and families through whatever situations they may face.

Adoption in South Dakota

And we’ll also help families adopt children who are in need of a loving home. During my time as Governor, Noem emphasized adoption as an area where we can improve as a state. And my Life.SD.gov website helps families find resources to help, whether they are adopting or giving a child up for adoption.

Noem recommends up to $25,000 for state employees to cover the cost of adopting a child domestically.

Two years ago, Noem launched the “Stronger Families Together” initiative. Before this initiative, we were recruiting fewer than 200 new foster families every year. Now, we’re recruiting more than 300 foster families annually to help. We met our target in year one, and our recruitment contacts are up for year two! But our foster children face educational challenges as a result of their circumstances.

Today, Noem is announcing the “Stronger Families Scholarships” proposal to provide a new educational opportunity for these kids. Any child in the foster care system will have the opportunity to receive up to $4,000 in a scholarship to help them achieve their full potential from kindergarten through 12th grade. This money can be used to pay tuition at a private school, pay for tutoring or teaching services, purchase curriculum, pay for standardized tests or AP exams, and more.

There is always more that we can do. Today, more than 100 businesses across the state provide targeted discounts to foster families and children.

One of the biggest challenges that families in South Dakota face today is access to childcare. Families might have to go on a waitlist for months. One parent may have to stop working for the time being.

In the coming days, we will complete an overhaul of our childcare rules and regulations. We’ve been working closely with childcare providers to rewrite these rules in a way that makes sense – while prioritizing the safety of our kids.

We will also release nearly $40M in federal grants for childcare providers. We held several meetings with providers so that these grants will target exactly what they need – from new technology to startup funds to quality initiatives.

We also heard about their workforce challenges. We are going to help tackle this by making it more attractive to work in the childcare field. Currently, childcare providers struggle to give benefits to their employees. So we will be partnering with the South Dakota Farm Bureau to fix this.

Through all of these efforts, we are making clear that South Dakota prioritizes stronger families.

Securing South Dakota

A little over a month ago, Noem signed an executive order banning TikTok for state government.

Noem is also working with Senator Tobin and Representative Cammack on legislation to block purchases of South Dakota ag land from Chinese companies. This legislation will create a board called the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States – South Dakota, or CFIUS-SD. This new board will include ag experts, national and state security experts, and legal counsel. It will review any purchase, lease, or transfer of South Dakota agriculture land by a foreign person, company, or entity and make its recommendation to the Governor on whether the purchase should be approved.

That’s the kind of decisive action that we need. We all saw what happened to our neighbors to the north – where a Chinese affiliate purchased land near critical infrastructure to our nation’s security – we cannot allow that to happen here. We cannot allow Chinese interests to purchase any South Dakota ag land, much less land near any military base or critical state infrastructure.

We are committed to securing our state, and we are committed to honoring the men and women in uniform who make that possible. South Dakota respects law enforcement. We’ve proven that in our actions – not just in our words. We recruited out-of-state law enforcement officers to move to a state where they are respected.

Heroism in South Dakota

It isn’t just our law enforcement officers who go above and beyond the call of duty. Noem hears story after story of incredible South Dakotans who step up daily.

Stories like the staff at the Avera Avantara nursing home in Salem who brought residents into an inner room when the Derecho hit last spring. They had to physically hold the doors shut with their bare hands to keep them from being ripped off their hinges. And when the storm abated, everything on the other side of that door was gone. Those nursing home employees may have felt like they were just doing their job – but they saved so many lives that day.

Mark Kock works in construction. He has a wife and five kids. One day, he was driving through a torrential downpour when he saw a car flipped on its side in the median. He pulled over, climbed into the flipped vehicle, and found a woman who was in shock from the crash. The car was filling up with water. The woman was hanging by her seatbelt. Mark cut her loose, held her out of the water, calmed her down, and held the car door open above his head until emergency responders could arrive.

Mark is a hero. He was a hero that day. He’s also a hero in uniform. Mark is a Staff Sergeant in the South Dakota Air Guard, and he was driving on his way to drill when he stopped and helped that woman, potentially saving her life. His job in the Guard is to keep our nation safe and protect our Freedoms – but he could have just kept driving that day. He didn’t. He pulled over. He stepped up.

Our state is safer because of men and women who answer the call of duty without being asked.

Conclusion

Ladies and gentlemen: that is the State of our State. For four years, we have made South Dakota the state where anyone can build their American Dream. We have strengthened families. And we have secured the state. What we have built here over the last four years is exactly what our Founding Fathers envisioned when they created our nation – and the founders of our state who enshrined the phrase, “Under God the People Rule.” And we’re just getting started.

That is still our task today: to ensure a free, efficient, and equal government for the people of South Dakota. I look forward to working with all of you to get it done, said Noem.