Area lawmakers voiced their support for various proposals outlined by Gov. Dennis Daugaard during his State of the State Address on Tuesday.
As one focus of his speech, Daugaard pushed workforce development and education. Part of that effort would add more grants to technical schools and students in order to train workers in high demand fields.
He also spoke in favor of the Common Core educational standards, trying to alleviate concerns by saying the standards do not originate from the federal government and will provide a rigorous curriculum for South Dakota students.
Part of his speech also proposed changing how Building South Dakota, an economic development program established last year, is funded.
Under Daugaard’s plan, the program would receive $30 million of one-time funding this year. Going into the future, the program would be pre-funded from surplus money, but only if the state’s rainy day funds are already at 10 percent of general funds appropriations.
During the hour-long speech Daugaard touched on a variety of other subjects, including the state’s current economic climate, ongoing audits of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and changing the state’s bank franchise tax.
State Rep. Tim Rounds, one of the legislators representing Hughes, Hyde, Sully and Stanley counties, said the address – his 10th since joining the Legislature – contained many common themes, particularly jobs and preparing kids for the workforce.
Rounds said he likes Daugaard’s emphasis of working with technical institutes in order to train and keep workers in South Dakota.
“We’ve been shipping them out for years to better paying jobs elsewhere and now we have the opportunity to keep them here,” he said.
When it comes to Common Core, Rounds said he’s done a good deal of personal study of the issue since the last session. Many of the concerns he heard about last year were either unsubstantiated or more a fear of the unknown, he said.
He’s behind the governor in supporting Common Core, especially since it should let local school districts decide on and implement standards. However, the Legislature should be mindful of the issues parents may have as those standards are introduced, Rounds said.
State Rep. Mary Duvall, who also represents the area, said she was pleased with how the governor highlighted an optimistic outlook for the state moving into the future.
“I’m sure there are a lot of states who wished they had the problems we have,” she said.
As far as the proposal to pre-fund Building South Dakota, Duvall said it sounds like a good idea at first glance, but she would want more information on the issue before making any decisions.
Sen. Jason Frerichs, D-Wilmot, who serves as Senate minority leader, said he was “glad to see the governor has seen the light in terms of career technical education.”
Frerichs said Democrats have said in the past there was a need for a creative education model and to remove the stigma from choosing something other than a traditional four-year university.
On the subject of Common Core, Frerichs said he’s comfortable with the standards, adding it’s good when the system can both maintain rigor and leave important decisions to individual teachers.
He was less supportive when it came to the subject of funding for Building South Dakota. Because it’s different than what the Legislature passed last year, it will require some discussion, he said. Personally, he’s more in favor of dedicated funding to the program, Frerichs said.
Several Republican senators voiced their support after the conclusion of Daugaard’s speech.
“There are a lot of positive things happening in South Dakota,” said Larry Rhoden, R-Union Center.
Rhoden, who is also a candidate for U.S. Senate, said the governor outlined several areas that indicate the improved direction of the state.
“The way that we’ve done business in this state pays dividends,” he said.
Rhoden said by using fiscal responsibility, the governor’s speech was a positive message to legislators and the general public.
Sen. Bruce Rampelberg, R-Rapid City, also voiced support following Daugaard’s address.
“The governor gets a seal of approval for paying down debt,” he said.
As in his budget address last month, Daugaard discussed the $17 million windfall in unclaimed properties that the Legislature will disburse during the legislative session. Rampelberg said that he would like to see some of the unclaimed funds directed towards infrastructure.
“I think some of that money should be used towards our roads and bridges,” he said.
Capital Journal reporter Joel Ebert contributed to this article.