Rounds brings campaign goals, ideas to SDSU


In his visit to campus Wednesday, gubernatorial candidate Mike Rounds discussed his campaign with the Collegian editorial board.

Rounds, a 1977 SDSU graduate, is a businessman currently living in Pierre. He spent 10 years in the state legislature, including six years as Senate Majority Leader.

Rounds defeated Mark Barnett and Steve Kirby for the Republican nomination and now faces Democratic candidate Jim Abbott as well as Independent James Carlson and Libertairean Nathan Barton in the November 5 general election.

Parts of the Collegian’s discussion with the candidate are presented in a question-and-answer format.

Q: Why are you interested in the governor’s office?

I like solving problems. I see a lot of people with a lot of really good ideas, but in the past a lot of those ideas never come to fruition. I like taking ideas and putting them together into the big puzzle and and making them all mesh.

It’s amazing how many times you have issues and concerns that the answers are there, but you never get them all put together. I like solving that problem.

Q: Do you feel SD should raise teacher salaries to compete with other states, or is the cost of living in SD to a point where it compensates?

We should be raising all salaries. Teacher salaries are no different. The question is, at what level do you make the determination. Do you do it at the local level or at the state level to determine what salary policy should be?

At the present time, teachers are local employees … and local school districts want control. They don’t want the state involved in telling them what they have to pay teachers.

But what we can do to help is to improve state aid to education. I helped work on the current state aid formula. … We changed it so that we said regardless of the amount of local property taxes a district can raise, we were going to have the same number of dollars per student available, with certain exceptions. …

But I do think that salary policy still belongs at the local level.

Q: What ideas do you have for ways to get more money into that system?

Number one, I think at this point forward we take what we call the declining enrollment money and we average it back in over the kids that are there.

The second thing that we can do, because we’ve now secured ties to the tobacco trust fund settlement money, … I think we should put that back into the formula. We won’t be able to put it all back into the formula because there’s going to be two other groups of people that really want some of that money. …

What this does is it allows local school districts to get somewhere between $65 and $70 more per child going to school, and, at that point, if they feel it’s appropriate to use it for health care cost or salary policy or whatever they think is important, they can do that.

Long-term there is a solution, and it’s one that we literally have to have or we’re going to have to have major changes in the way we collect taxes in this state. It’s a tax on Internet sales.

Right now, in South Dakota, like in every other state, there’s a moritorium, a federal moritorium on the collection of sales tax on anything bought over the Internet.

To give you a good example, last year in South Dakota, because we couldn’t collect these types of taxes on Internet and catalog sales, we lost $42 million in revenue. But by the year 2006, according to a University of Tennessee study completed last year, we will lose $119 million in tax revenue.

Q: What is your position on the so-called gag law?

The law has been attacked on numerous occasions. When we started with it, we explained what the intent of it was, which was to protect entities and individuals who do business with the state.

Since that time, I personally have made two changes in that law. There is a need for privacy for entities that do business with the state. There is also a need to allow for public access of most generic information or summary information that the state collects. …

We have suggested in the past that none of these laws is perfect and that when we find additional changes that should be made, we’ll make the chances then. … The one thing that we cannot do is to allow for proprietary information that a company has to provide the state to be used at the whim of a bureaucrat for their own purposes to the detriment of that entity.

Q: What issues to you see that are going to be affecting college students a lot in this election?

Scholarship programs, to begin with. … What I would like to do, as one example of a scholarship that would work, is offer a tuition-free education for students attending universities in this state who have a propensity for public service, the ability to offer a skill that we need, and an interest in living in South Dakota when they leave school. …

My goal would be that a lot of young people would apply and would have the opportunity and would stay here. If we keep the young people here, the businessmen and women in this state will find them and pay them more money than I can afford to pay them. …

I don’t want to leave higher ed out. We have to find ways to bring more revenue in to higher ed. One of my sources are the foundations. I want to work with the foundations to make them a stronger component as a resource for our campuses.

Q: What are the key issues in the gubernatorial campaign?

I see the major issue in South Dakota today being a combination of how do we pay for the quality of education we have and how do we keep the young people in our state. Those are my jobs, those are the problems I want to solve. I’m finding some great ideas out there. …

The biggest single issue that people talk to me about yet, though, is they want people that are running for public office to treat each other with respect. … They want a campaign based on issues and ideas and seeing people treat each other with respect, and I’m going to honor that.