Rounds address kicks off 2003 session


Susan Smith & Tara Bordewyk, Community News Service

PIERRE – Gov. Mike Rounds wasted no time in his first State of the State address Jan. 14 outlining issues facing South Dakota and presenting his solutions to some of those problems.

Probably the biggest announcement Rounds made was his intention to give $15.1 million increase in state aid. Rounds said he wants to give the normal 1.5 percent rate of inflation increase this year, but then also give schools $2.7 million from the declining enrollment fund and an additional $7.3 million from the general fund. Originally lawmakers and the governor thought that money would come from trust funds that contain money from the national tobacco settlement. However, those investments did not perform up to expectation and that money is not there. Rounds told reporters on Jan. 13 in future years that extra money will hopefully come from the trust funds. The additional monies will amount to a $143 increase per student. “It is one of the largest single increases (in state aid) in the state of South Dakota,” Rounds said.

Rural development featured prominently in the governor’s speech. He plans to reorganize state government to center departments and offices that work to promote the state in one agency. Those include the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, tourism, history, arts, cultural affairs and tribal relations.

Rounds said South Dakota needs to promote itself. Individual communities will play a role in their own survival. If they come up with a plan Rounds approves of, he said he would find the money to help make that plan a reality.

He wants to more closely connect state and local governments by reviving the Capitol for a Day program started by Gov. George S. Mickelson. Rounds said improved technology available today would make that project much easier. Rounds and his senior staff will relocate to one community each month and operate there for a day. Fax, e-mail and cell phones will allow the governor’s office to stay connected while on the road.

Rounds highlighted other key areas he will work on including:

* Improved relationships with the tribes. “I just want to start over,” he said.

* Eliminating the Department of Commerce and locating administration, highway safety commercial inspections and licensing and the highway patrol in the newly created Department of Public Safety. Human Rights, South Dakota Housing Development Authority and Public Utilities Commission will move to the Department of Labor. He will move the commission on gaming, insurance fraud unit, banking and securities and insurance and petroleum release compensation to the renamed Department of Revenue and Regulation.

* Depending on the size of the project, he wants to give incentives, such as tax credits, to encourage the development of wind power.

* Balancing the budget – but not on the backs of state workers.

* Providing more property tax relief.

* Creating a prescription drug plan for seniors.

* Developing agricultural products, like Dakota Prime Beef, that are processed in such a way that quality would not be questioned. Rounds said marketing is the key to increasing the value of agricultural products.

* Awarding Dakota Corps scholarships on a need basis to students at both private and public colleges and universities. Tuition for those students will be forgiven if they stay in the state for five years.

* Creation of a scholarship named for State Sen. Dick Hagen, who died last year, and Minerva Harvey, who donated the money that will provide seven scholarships a year for Native American freshman at the state’s colleges, universities or technical schools. Students will receive $1,000 the first and second year, $1,500 the third year and $2,500 the fourth year.

“What I really like is he obviously brings a wealth of knowledge here from his 10 years in the Senate,” Rep. Orville Smidt, R-Brookings, said of the new governor.

His ability to work with people also is a strong asset, Smidt said, as well as his plans to work with local communities.

“I think that’s really going to be extremely useful up here if he can get that kind of feedback,” he said.

He also thinks Rounds’ emphasis on agriculture is good for the times.

Rep. Sean O’Brien, R-Brookings, said he thought Rounds addressed several important issues.

“I liked the fact that he is forward-thinking in coming up with proposals to move the state forward,” O’Brien said. He was especially interested in the scholarship plan.

“Coming from Brookings, which is home to SDSU, the scholarship program is obviously important,” O’Brien said.

State Sen. Arnold Brown, R-Brookings, said Rounds gave the State of the State with sincere interest and enthusiasm even though the budget situation looks bleak.

“He doesn’t have all the answers and neither do we, so we have to work together,” Brown said.

#1.887603:2038830927.jpg:rounds.jpg:Gov. Mike Rounds delivers his first state of the state address Jan. 14 in the state senate chamber. In his speech, which began the 2003 legislative session, Rounds addressed several issues he hopes to work on during this legislative session, ranging from agriculture to scholarship programs. Brookings legislators reacted favorably to what the governor had to say.:Community News Service