Governor Daugaard’s Weekly Column: Another Effort To Be Even Better Stewards

Another Effort To Be Even Better Stewards
A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:

DaugaardThe word that best sums up the public trust held by all officials is stewardship. Stewardship – the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care – has been my goal over these past four years.

Good stewardship brought our budget into structural balance four years ago. It has been good stewardship, each year thereafter, to project our revenues and expenses with caution, so if we erred, we would err on the side of a surplus not a deficit. It was an exercise of careful and responsible management when, after receiving an unexpected windfall last year, we used the money to retire bonds early and to pay cash for our new veterans’ home rather than borrowing.

In another effort to improve stewardship of taxpayer dollars, I have initiated a new state debt policy this year.

Our Constitution prohibits debt. To finance construction projects and manage large outflows of funds, the South Dakota Building Authority and South Dakota Health and Educational Facilities Authority were created. These entities issue and refinance bonds to pay for things like state park projects, the buildings at the behavioral health center in Yankton and public university projects. Long-term leases between the state and these authorities retire the bonds that are issued.

Last year, I asked the Bureau of Finance and Management to create a new debt limitation and management policy to guide both the management of existing debt and the issuance of new debt through these authorities. Under this new policy, total debt cannot exceed 1.2 percent of the state’s GDP and total annual debt service payments cannot exceed 4 percent of the ongoing general fund revenue from the previous fiscal year.

We were well below these boundaries at the end of Fiscal Year 2014, with the total outstanding debt as a percentage of state GDP at 0.8 percent and annual debt service payments as a percentage of ongoing general fund revenue at 2.9 percent.

In January, the Lieutenant Governor and Commissioner of Finance and Management traveled to New York City to share this new debt policy with ratings agencies. When Standard & Poor’s revised South Dakota’s outlook from stable to positive last summer, the ratings agency encouraged South Dakota to continue to improve our already strong fiscal position. I appreciate a good credit rating because it saves the state money, but I also appreciate that outside experts are endorsing the strength of the decisions we have made.

The principle of stewardship – careful and responsible management – will continue to be my goal for the next four years. We won’t spend money we don’t have. We will keep our budget in structural balance. We will be frugal, not cheap, and seize opportunities to spend in the short term where it can lead to savings, efficiencies or better government in the long term.


Governor Daugaard’s Weekly Column: Learning More About Education Funding

Learning More About Education Funding
A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:

DaugaardEvery year, when the Legislature meets, education is discussed and debated as much as any other topic. That’s the way it should be. South Dakota spends approximately half of our general fund budget on education, because we understand that it is a priority for our state.

Very often, debates about education focus on funding. That makes sense, because funding is the principal way that state government affects schools. Local officials decide how many teachers and staff to hire, and what to pay them. They decide which programs and courses to offer. But they make those decisions in the context of available funding.

Still, the focus on funding can draw attention away from the broader discussion – our policy goals for education in South Dakota. I believe that we have three goals: First, we want a quality system of schools focused on student achievement. Second, we want a workforce of great educators. Finally, we want an efficient, equitable funding system that supports those goals.

More funding may be the answer to achieving those goals, but we have a responsibility to the taxpayers to be certain that we are spending their dollars wisely. We need confidence that our state funding system for K-12 schools is aligned with those three goals.

That is why I am joining with legislative leaders to create a Blue Ribbon Task Force on Teachers and Students. This task force will reevaluate the current funding formula. It will collect and analyze data, engage with stakeholders and seek public input. The task force will make recommendations to the 2016 State Legislature for reform.

I know that some will say that, rather than establish a task force, we should take action now. But there are still too many questions that need to be answered.

We need to understand where teacher shortages are occurring and what can be done to address them. We need to ask why 12 states can spend less per student than South Dakota, yet pay their teachers more. We need to ask why, even as we hear growing concerns about teacher salaries, many schools’ reserve funds are increasing.

These questions need to be answered with hard data, not anecdotes or opinion surveys, and I have asked the Department of Education to compile hard data on the teaching workforce and on school funding to inform the work of the task force.

Three years ago, I joined with the Chief Justice and legislative leaders to initiate a year-long review of the criminal justice system. That process took on a difficult issue and resulted in a sweeping reform package that passed with broad support. This year, the Legislature is considering a similar reform package of the juvenile justice system, which is also the product of a year-long process.

We are bringing that same successful process to the issue of school funding. South Dakotans want a quality education for every student, and we want great teachers to provide that education. Through this process, we can gain confidence that our state funding system is focused on achieving these important goals.


Governor Signs First Bill Of Legislative Session Into Law

Governor Signs First Bill Of Legislative Session Into Law

PIERRE, S.D. – Gov. Dennis Daugaard today signed the first bill of the 2015 Legislative Session into law. The piece of legislation, Senate Bill 28, authorizes the Board of Regents to sell a parcel of property on the South Dakota State University campus to the City of Brookings.

The piece of property referenced in the bill was given to the university to provide rail access to the heating plant and has not been used for 35 years.

The bill contains an emergency clause to allow the Board of Regents to sell property in Fiscal Year 2015. Once the land has been sold, the proceeds from the sale will be credited to the university.


Governor Daugaard’s Weekly Column: Caring For Those Who Have Borne The Battle

Caring For Those Who Have Borne The Battle
A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:

daugaard2Last year at this time, the South Dakota Department of Veterans Affairs launched Operation Reaching All Veterans. Seeking new ways to assist those who have served, the Department began an unprecedented effort to reach out to veterans all across the state.

Historically, American veterans haven’t always received the kind of support they deserve. During the Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress did not have the authority or the money to pay soldiers, so payment was left to the states. Though General Washington and many of the Founders stressed the importance of justly compensating those fighting for liberty, the states just weren’t able to afford it. Only 3,000 out of the 200,000 who served in the war actually drew a pension.

By the time the Civil War began, a federal veteran pension system was in place, and by the end of the war – at the urging of Abraham Lincoln – veterans’ hospitals were opened.

We’ve come a long way since then. But even with all of our progress, there’s still more to do. As Lincoln put it in his second inaugural address, we must always strive to “care for him who shall have borne the battle.”

Today we have a new generation to care for. Since 9/11, each of South Dakota’s 22 National Guard communities has experienced a unit mobilization in support of Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, New Dawn and Noble Eagle. To date, the South Dakota National Guard has deployed more than 7,200 Soldiers and Airmen in support of the Global War on Terror. Thankfully, for the first time in more than a decade, none of our National Guard soldiers or airmen are currently deployed overseas.

With a new generation of veterans to serve, the South Dakota Department of Veterans Affairs launched Operation Reaching All Veterans last January with the goal of reaching out to every single veteran in South Dakota. This campaign was a first for the Department and a first in the nation.  Their objectives were to educate veterans and their families about benefits, programs and services; to listen to concerns, provide key contacts to assist on a local level; and, most importantly, to say “thank you.”

The Department anticipates that there are 75,000 veterans living in South Dakota. Over the last year, staff and veterans service officers estimate they have already made contact with about two-thirds of those veterans by making phone calls, staffing a booth at the Capitol and holding 153 open houses in 63 counties. One veterans’ service officer, Tom Sparrow of Turner County, personally contacted over 11,000 veterans.

Larry Zimmerman, South Dakota Secretary of Veterans Affairs, says that this was just Phase I. Phase II will involve trying to reach those that they couldn’t reach by phone.

I know there is no way to fully repay our veterans for all they have sacrificed to protect our freedom. They left the comfort of their homes and the embraces of their loved ones to put their lives on the line for us. Still, I believe Operation Reaching All Veterans is making a difference, and it’s one step toward repaying just a small part of the debt we owe to those who have borne the battle.


Press Release: Gov. Daugaard Names Kim Malsam-Rysdon As Secretary Of Health

Gov. Daugaard Names Kim Malsam-Rysdon As Secretary Of Health

PIERRE, S.D. – Gov. Dennis Daugaard announced today that he will appoint Kim Malsam-Rysdon as Secretary of Health.

Malsam-Rysdon has held the position in an interim role since last month. She will replace Secretary Doneen Hollingsworth, who retired after nineteen years as secretary.

“Public health has never been more important as we see the need to respond to emerging issues such as Ebola and a recent outbreak of contagious diseases like measles”, said Gov. Daugaard. “Kim will not only be able to lead our state’s response to these issues but also ensure we are doing all we can to address chronic diseases and access to quality health care services across our state”.

Malsam-Rysdon will continue to serve as senior advisor to the Governor and as a member of the Governor’s Executive Committee. She previously served as Secretary of the Department of Social Services.

“I appreciate the ability to serve the state of South Dakota in this role and look forward to leading our state’s health department,” said Malsam-Rysdon. “Public health issues and access to health care are critical issues that impact individuals and families across South Dakota. I look forward to working with stakeholders throughout our state to address these needs.


Governor Dennis Daugaard’s Weekly Column: Reforming Our Juvenile Corrections System

Reforming Our Juvenile Corrections System
A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:

DaugaardWe have much to be proud of in South Dakota. Our state has the third lowest unemployment rate in the nation. We’re among the states with the lowest cost of living. Just a few weeks ago Pew named South Dakota as the state with the least volatility in year-to-year tax revenues.

There is, however, one top ranking of which we shouldn’t be proud: South Dakota has the second highest juvenile commitment rate in the nation. This high rate of commitment is not explained by a higher rate of juvenile arrests for violent crime. In fact, South Dakota’s juvenile violent crime arrest rate is just one-third of the national average.

Seven of every 10 youth committed to the Department of Corrections in 2013 were committed for misdemeanor offenses, probation violations and “status offenses” –violations which, if committed as an adult, would not even be considered crimes.

Research shows that for many youth, commitment to residential placement fails to produce better outcomes than alternative sanctions. Commitment to residential placement also costs much more and can actually increase reoffending in certain circumstances.

Two years ago, we reformed our adult corrections system to improve public safety, hold offenders more accountable and control costs. Though it’s only been a short time since those reforms took effect, early results are positive. The percentage of offenders who have successfully completed parole has increased, hundreds of probationers have earned early termination of their supervision by complying with the rules, and the prison population is slightly less than what was projected.

Because the criminal justice reforms of 2013 are showing positive early indications, I, along with a number of stakeholders across the state, wanted to offer similar reforms for the juvenile justice system.

This legislative session, I’m proposing that we reserve commitments to the Department of Corrections for only youth who commit the most serious offenses and pose a risk to the public. I’m also proposing that we develop an array of effective interventions for youth offenders, including community-based programs to address substance abuse, antisocial tendencies and challenges within the family. These types of programs would allow youth to get the help they need without being removed from their homes. They would also help judges as they perform the difficult task of weighing how best to set youth on a better path.

We have a choice to make. We can continue to place juveniles in expensive state-funded facilities that, for many, are less effective at reducing delinquency, or we can invest in proven interventions and treatment programs that keep our youth close to home and connected to their communities.

Though it would be easier to keep doing what we’ve been doing, that would be a disservice to South Dakota – to the taxpayers who fund the correctional system and to the young offenders who need to be rehabilitated.

I’m hopeful that lawmakers will continue to be engaged on this issue and that they will come to agree that now is the time to fix this problem.  As we’ve proven in the past, we can do great things when we work together.


Press Release: Governor Unveils Juvenile Justice Legislation

Governor Unveils Juvenile Justice Legislation

PIERRE, S.D. – Building on the success of earlier reforms to the adult corrections system, Gov. Dennis Daugaard, legislative leaders and Chief Justice David Gilbertson today unveiled legislation designed to improve outcomes for youth in South Dakota’s juvenile justice system and cut costs.

Joined in the Senate chamber by Chief Justice David Gilbertson and legislative leaders, Gov. Daugaard said the Juvenile Justice Public Safety Improvement Act focuses expensive juvenile facilities on youth who pose a safety risk and expands the use of effective, community-based interventions for youth who commit less serious offenses.

“South Dakota has a choice to make,” Gov. Daugaard said. “We can continue to place juveniles in expensive state-funded facilities that, for many, are less effective at reducing delinquency, or we can invest in proven interventions and treatment programs that keep our youth close to home and connected to their communities. We are seeing success with our adult reforms of 2013. Now is the time to improve our juvenile system as well.”

Highlights of the landmark legislation include:

§  Focusing expensive facility placements on youth who pose a public safety risk

§  Preventing youth who commit lower-level offenses from deeper involvement in the juvenile justice system

§  Improving outcomes by expanding access to evidence-based interventions in the community

§  Ensuring the quality and sustainability of reforms by establishing an oversight council

According to the most recent national statistics, South Dakota has the second highest juvenile commitment rate in the country, a surprising ranking given the state’s very low juvenile violent crime arrest rate. Costs are significant; the state spends up to $144,000 per year for residential placement for each youth committed to the South Dakota Department of Corrections, mostly for misdemeanors and other low-level violations.

“Juvenile corrections facilities were built for youth who present a real threat to public safety. But the kids who are removed from their families and placed in the custody of the state are far too often low-level rule breakers, misdemeanants and non-violent,” said Sen. Alan Solano. “We can do better by our kids, families and communities by shifting policy and resources toward strategies that work better and cost less.”

Motivated by the high commitment rate and early success of the 2013 Public Safety Improvement Act (SB 70) that transformed South Dakota’s management of adult offenders, the Governor and Chief Justice established the 17-member Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Initiative Work Group in June of 2014. After six months of meetings with more than 200 stakeholders and an exhaustive review of juvenile justice data, the bipartisan, inter-branch work group developed policy recommendations to increase public safety by improving outcomes for youth, families and communities; enhance accountability for juvenile offenders; and contain taxpayer costs by focusing system resources on serious offenders who pose a public safety risk.

Unanimously endorsed by the work group, these recommendations are reflected in the Act filed by Daugaard today. If approved, the package of policy changes will protect public safety while ensuring South Dakota’s taxpayer dollars are used as efficiently as possible.

“The proposals in this bill have the potential to significantly improve our juvenile justice system, by reallocating dollars to places where they are most effective,” said Chief Justice David Gilbertson. “With the implementation of these policies, we will be able to not only treat the juvenile, but also address the juvenile’s family. Too often we remove the juvenile and fail to look at what is going on at home that might be contributing to the child’s behavior. The family needs to become part of the solution.”

Taken together, the policies are projected to reduce the Department of Corrections juvenile population in residential placement by more than 50 percent, decrease the number of youth on probation by more than 25 percent by 2020, and greatly expand the array of services available for juvenile offenders and their families around the state.

The work group’s full report is available on the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Initiative website, located at

The Act to Improve Public Safety In Juvenile Justice earned the endorsement of Gov. Dennis Daugaard, Chief Justice David Gilbertson, Attorney General Marty Jackley, State’s Attorneys Association, Sheriffs’ Association, Association of County Commissioners, Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Network Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault, Association of Youth Care Providers, Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Voices for Children, and the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Initiative Work Group and the co-sponsorship of 92 legislators.


Governor Daugaard’s Weekly Column: A Better Road Ahead

A Better Road Ahead
A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:

DaugaardThis week, I delivered my State of the State address on the opening day of the South Dakota State Legislature. I used a major portion of that address to discuss South Dakota’s roads and bridges.

In a rural state like South Dakota, good quality roads are our lifeline. And right now, our roads are underfunded. In all corners of the state, we have road funding needs. State highways, municipal streets, county oil, township gravel, and hundreds of rural bridges are in need of additional maintenance.

Sixteen years ago, when I was a state senator and Bill Janklow was governor, the Legislature implemented the current 22-cent-a-gallon fuel tax.  Since then, construction costs have doubled, but our gas tax hasn’t.  It is still 22 cents per gallon.

We have 82,000 miles of roadway in South Dakota, many of which are in disrepair. Between local roads and state highways, we could easily spend another $150 million per year. We have nearly 1,400 bridges that are still safe, but structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. The replacement cost for those structures is about $240 million.

In 2003, $1 million would buy 7.8 miles of asphalt overlay, 1.5 miles of rural roadway reconstruction, and about 0.4 miles of urban concrete roadway reconstruction. In 2013, just 10 years later, that same $1 million could only overlay or reconstruct about half as many miles of roadway.

Our state highway system is South Dakota’s most valuable physical asset, and if we want to maintain it, we must act now. That is why I am proposing a road and bridge funding bill that meets the need at both state and local levels. My proposal generates about $50 million more this year, and in the long run it will permanently fix the current imbalance between road construction needs and funding.

When President Ronald Reagan proposed a gas tax increase in 1982, he said this: “America can’t afford throwaway roads or disposable transit systems. The bridges and highways we fail to repair today will have to be rebuilt tomorrow at many times the cost.”

President Reagan was exactly right. This year we need to fix this problem, for good.

Maintaining our roads and bridges is one of the most fundamental functions of government, and it is vital for this year and for decades to come. I don’t want to leave this problem to future generations.


Inaugural buttons still available from Pierre Chamber of Commerce

inauguralI’ve got my Dennis Daugaard 2015 Inaugural pin in it’s place of honor on my bulletin board, nestled among other Inaugural pins, such as Bill Janklow, Nils Boe, and Governor Joe Foss. If you missed getting one this weekend, I’ve confirmed that the Pierre Chamber of Commerce still has them available.

All you need to to is to contact the Pierre Area Chamber of Commerce at 800.962.2034, and place your order. Don’t delay, as they won’t keep them around there forever.

Governor Daugaard’s Weekly Column: Launch of the Boards and Commissions Portal

Launch of the Boards and Commissions Portal
A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:

daugaard2State government should be open and accessible to the people of South Dakota. Throughout my time in office, I have made government transparency a priority. The Governor’s Office has released invitation lists, opened both the Governor’s Mansion and Valhalla to tours, and has made more information available online.

Open government is about more than availability; it is about accessibility. For example, in 2013, we launched the administrative rules website,, making it easier for South Dakotans to read and give input on proposed rules. The success of the site taught us that there is a lot of value in putting information in one location.

As Governor, I have the privilege of making appointments to our state boards and commissions. Through serving on more than 100 boards and commissions, over 1,000 South Dakotans generously lend their time and expertise to aid our state. One day as I was having difficulty finding minutes from a state board meeting, I was reminded of the administrative rules website we launched last year. While most of the boards and commissions post their information online, having to visit a number of different agency websites to find those things could be time consuming and inconvenient.

That is why we created a boards and commissions portal at to serve as a central hub for this information. At this website South Dakotans will be able to more easily find minutes, public documents, information on members and dates, and agendas for scheduled meetings.

In our state constitution, the South Dakota Bill of Rights states, “All political power is inherent in the people, and all free government is founded on their authority, and is instituted for their equal protection and benefit.”

As South Dakota citizens, you deserve the opportunity to know about and participate in your government.