Madville Times' Senior/Founding Blogger listened to Governor Dennis Daugaard's State of the State speech yesterday afternoon and heard the message loud and clear that the top priority for this administration is maintaining a strong "business climate" in the state of South Dakota. Hoping the Legislature will let the Governor's Office of Economic Development (GOED) continue playing rainmaker, Daugaard is all about economic development this year, as he has been pretty much every year.
I heard the same "Go, Go, GOED!!" message in the speech, but I also heard a confounding counter-message as Daugaard described the hard times our West River ranchers have endured after losing tens of thousands of animals in a record-setting early-winter storm.
The Governor cited a conversation he had earlier in the week with a "friend from Union Center."** This paragon of South Dakota Values reminded his buddy Denny about the admirable independence of our state's ranchers in the face of disaster, proudly averring that, "The next rancher to demand a government handout will be the first."
Now, Daugaard's story may have simply been a sort of throw-away, nobody-can-disagree-with-that platitude meant to honor hard-working South Dakotans who could certainly use as much encouragement as we can give them. I have trouble viewing the independence-as-the-prime-virtue ethos of the celebrated American West as anything other than apocryphal, but I recognize that particular brand of skepticism puts me in a distinct minority in South Dakota.
What I have even more trouble reconciling—and this might put me in an even more distinct minority—is how the Governor can laud the intrepid risk-taking inherent in Great Plains ranching and simultaneously advocate creating a business environment that makes outside corporate investment as cushy as possible.
At minute 67 of the State of the State address, Daugaard tells us that "South Dakota works in so many ways because of our values," and cites the spirit of shunning handouts as one of those values. But back at minute 27, he talked about a past, present, and future of spending hundreds of thousands of government dollars on a different sort of handout. This sort of handout is the kind that leads businesses to begin and continue their relationship with our fair state completely dependent on government incentives as they make their contributions to our economy.
I agree with our Governor that shared values of hard work and community contribute to making South Dakota great. However, these values are absent from legislative priorities that focus more on bribing businesses with tax breaks from the "Building South Dakota Fund" than on being a caring steward of the South Dakota that's already been built.
**Blatant gossipmongering questions: (1) Could this "friend from Union Center" be rancher, District 29 Senator, and Republican U.S. Senate candidate Larry Rhoden? (2) If so, is there something to be read from the popular sitting governor choosing to quote only one of the five candidates vying for his party's nomination in a contentious primary, in effect endorsing the folksy South Dakota-approved wisdom of that one candidate? (3) If so, is there something further to be read from that same popular sitting governor who's quoting only one candidate in his address quoting the candidate who's NOT his former boss?