South Dakota State of the State Address 2002
By Stateline Staff
Thank you very much, Ladies and Gentlemen. Thank you.
Madam Lieutenant Governor, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Chief Justice, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Legislature, and you Ladies and Gentlemen of the Supreme Court and Constitutional Officers.
If I could, I'd like to start off today by introducing a new position for an old member of one of the branches of government. Under our system, the justices of the Supreme Court select for a term the Chief Justice of this State, and the justices of our Supreme Court have seen fit to select as the new Chief Justice for the State of South Dakota David O. Gilbertson. Justice Gilbertson.
There is one other group that I would like to introduce today. It's really the last chance that I'll ever get to do this. They are a group that has really been as much a part of me as myself virtually my entire public career and even before that. Today I have with me in the back of the room behind these House Chambers Mary Dean, our son Russell, his daughter Lindsey and Will, our daughter Pam and her husband Randy, our daughter Shonna and her husband Bill and their two children, little Daniel and little Emma. That's little Daniel back there waving at me.
I want you all to know that one of the things that you really get blessed with in life is to have a family, especially a family like mine who have had a terribly easy time in life living with me. But, I want to thank each and every one of you. You are more than special. You're the same thing that families mean to everybody, and thank you for coming. Thank you, frankly, for always being there whenever I felt that there had to be somebody or you felt there had to be somebody to take care of me. You're a marvelous group of people. And thank you, all.
What I've done today is decide to come and give you a report on the state of the state, and I'm trying to do it a little bit different way. I'm going to really break this report into two parts, the report of where we're at because of where we've been and the road we've traveled, and then what the challenges are that we have to deal with. What I am going to try to do today is to really address both those kinds of things, recognizing that we've done a lot together. We truly have done a lot together.
Way back when I first became involved in running for Governor years ago, I said there were four perspectives that I felt I would always have to bring to public life if I were successful.
One, you always put taxpayers first.
Two, we have a responsibility in government to provide for the public education of our citizens.
Three, we have a responsibility to protect the people and the property within our sovereign sphere.
And four, we have an absolute responsibility to care for people who can't care for themselves. We get into fights at times as to at what point should people start taking care of themselves or at what point should they be fully responsible for themselves, but we never get into a fight where we're taking care of people who truly can't help themselves.
We get into arguments about what ought to be against the law, and if it is against the law, what should be the penalty, and if you get a penalty, for how long should you be penalized. But none of us argue that we need a system whereby we can maintain the protectoral integrity of the people and the property within this state.
There could be no one who I've ever heard argue that every one of us doesn't have a fundamental responsibility to make sure that we provide a quality educational opportunity for every child and every adult in this state that wants one. Can we afford all we want? No, we can't, and we have never been able to throughout our history. But the really important question is, Are we always moving forward in the right direction, closing the gap that we have to close to provide for a quality educational experience?
Finally, do we truly put taxpayers first, recognizing how important that truly is? There is no such thing as government money. There is no such thing as federal money or state money. Money is paid by human beings. No corporation pays taxes. They get their money from people. No business pays taxes. It gets its money from people and the owners. Individuals who earn pay taxes, and it is the earnings that they have that give them the ability to go out and make the purchases and make our economy move.
Way back when I was running for Governor eight years ago, my opponent and I both said that we would cut property taxes 30 percent. Every member of the other party, my friends that are Democrats, picked up the pledge and said they would cut property taxes 30 percent. Every member of my party made a public pledge. We would cut property taxes 30 percent, and we worked hard to deliver on that after the election was over.
If you take a look at this chart, what you can see is the success of that program. When I hear people that say, "I can't afford any more property tax relief," I know I am usually dealing with someone who's got rapidly appreciating value property or doesn't quite shoot square with people, one or the other. Because, the reality of the situation is, you can see by the blue lines on that chart what taxes were in property tax collections going back to 1983. You can see the huge rises that started to take place in '92, '93, '94, '95 that brought about a citizens' revolt. When Jim Beddow and I were running for Governor years ago, at every single debate, every single question by the media, every public appearance, the first question always was, What are you going to do about property taxes? That was always the dominant issue. As a matter of fact, we had an election that year where our people voted on a constitutional referendum that had been created by initiative. That constitutional referendum, rolling back over about $300 million to $500 million of taxes, lost by less than 1600 votes. In a statewide election, only 1600 votes separated the victory from the loss on the various sides on that issue. That's how angry our people were at property taxes.
You Ladies and Gentlemen that were in the Legislature then and ourselves, we went to work on this. We rolled up our sleeves, and it wasn't easy, but we'd made a promise. And, if your word is not any good, nothing about you is very good.
So, you can see that it took us more than four years. It took us several years, but we were able to achieve that 30 percent rollback for homeowners and agriculture property. What you see in the yellow are the payments that have been made the last six years into the funding of the schools. That's money that would have been paid by property taxpayers had we had the old system still in place. We kept our word. We kept our bond with the public.
Let's look at some of the things that have taken place over the last several years in South Dakota. Yeah, part of this is bragging. I understand that, my friends. But it is not just me bragging. As you look at this list, you'll see almost all of it required you, Ladies and Gentlemen, to be partners, to be a part of it. Frankly, some of you never voted for any of it. You were against it all, but we have people that wake up in the morning and their glass is always half full. Thank God most of the people in this state wake up in the morning and most of their glasses are not half empty. That's how you look at it. That's how you really look at it.
In the Digital State Survey for the second year in a row, South Dakota is number one in the nation. This is the only time in the history of keeping these surveys that a state has repeated as number one in education. You can see on this column what's happened in moving forward from 1997 to where we are today in the various categories that there are up therea phenomenal achievement by a little old state like South Dakota, a state without many resources.
As you look forward at where we are with respect to technology in schoolsand I'm not going to go through the whole thing, because you are all so familiar with it. But, you can see, back in 1999, not very long ago, two legislative terms ago, you can see that there were only 1800 K-12 educators on E-mail. Today, there are 9900 educators within our K-12 school system on the State's E-mail system. Last year, 4.5 million E-mails transpired between them in the first three months of the school year or this past school fall. Think of that. In September, October, and November, there were 4.5 million messages that went back and forth between the various educators in this state connecting with each other over the E-mail system.
We've got 1119 high school students today that are taking courses via the Dakota Digital Network, our network that we've all set up that you folks and I fund with the people's money where the state pays it all. We've got 1119 high school students taking all those courses that you see up there; Spanish I, II, III; anatomy; art; calculus; chemistry; college algebra. And this is just the beginning. This is honestly growing almostit's arithmetically, but I say almost geometricallyin terms of this phenomenal growth that's taking place since these schools have really bitten into it, and Northern State University has really started to aggressively come forward.
As a matter of fact, let's look at some of the things we've done together in K-12 education, stuff that I'll call out of the ordinary, out of the ordinary.
We wrote a new state aid formula. In most states in this country, it has had to be done by judicial decree. It has had to be done by court order because they had unfair formulas. We had the political will between us all to sit down and write a formula back in 1995. A whole slew of peopleJan Nicolay and Barb Everist and many of you Legislators, Dave Knudsonrolled up their sleeves and went to work. We got a new state aid formula and a new special aid formula. Other than the fact that some people complain about the special moneys that we created for the smaller schoolsfor all the schools that have less than 600 students in increasing proportion until you get to the point where schools under 200 K-12 students are treated as having six students for every five that they have. Other than that one factor, this is the fairest formula on the planet, because it is based on the community's ability to pay and wealth. So all students, all students are treated equally under our formula.
We've wired 622 public school buildings, all the private school buildings that wanted to be wired, every public university, every private university, and every public library. There is no question we are ready for the next millennium, the one that we're in, with respect to the technology base that's in place.
There is not a state in the Union that has a course for teachers, their classroom educators, that goes to 200 hours to learn how to utilize technology. Forty percent of all the classroom teachers in this state, 40 percent, four out of every ten drawing a paycheck for being teachers or educators, have been through that TTL course that has a minimum of 200 hours of instruction in how to utilize technology to enhance learning.
By the way, folks, these folks are incredibly valuable, because there is a shortage of them. There are none in the world. We have a corner on the market in terms of our percentage, and they are living proof that every time you give someone advanced skills in South Dakota, they're not going to run away someplace else and work, even though they can make more money virtually anyplace they go. So, as we look and we examine in other areas where we have to make special efforts, we should remember. Just because we help somebody educate themselves in life does not mean they are always going to run away and go someplace else and take advantage of the financial opportunity. There are all kinds of considerations people make. Most of the people in this room could make more money had they lived someplace else, but there are reasons people make decisions on where they want to live. In the world we live in today, there are going to be a lot more people that are going to be wanting to move home as we create new opportunities for them and their spouses and their children.
Our open enrollment program has been phenomenally successful. The first year, 1598 students transferred between schools, and this does not include transfers within a school district. It includes transfers from one district to another in a year. The second year, it was 2000. The third year, it was 3800. This is growing at the rate of about a thousand a year. Over three years, 8300 opportunities have taken place by students moving between school districts.
We passed content standards. This was a battle. This was tough. Just two weeks ago at a public hearing, one of the people at the public hearing complained that the standards were too tough. Were they expected to teach to the standards? If you teach to the standards, the content standards, the students are going to be able to pass the tests. But, more important than passing the test, they'll have the fundamental knowledge in the subject matter that they have to have to get ahead in life, to go to the next grade, to go to the next phase of their life.
We've got a reading enhancement program. I've just been invitedabout two weeks ago, I got an invitation to go down, the latter part of this month, to Houston, Texas. I'll bring a team of people from the State, to go with the federal Secretary of Education to attend a convocation or seminar where they want to discuss what we can do in America about trying to do something about increasing the reading levels. Ladies and Gentlemen, we've done it. Two years ago, we brought you a program on about a week's notice after having visited with a gentleman in the Sioux Falls School District and the teachers. I had the privilege of meeting with all the teachers of the year in South Dakota that came to my house one day. I won't mention their names, because I promised them I wouldn't burn them. So, I won't do that, but they came and we had a marvelous meeting.
We all talked about the importance of reading, so out of it came this program. We couldn't afford to do Reading Recovery and Sylvan Learning and some of the specialized, expensive courses. So, we put good minds together from Sioux Falls College, the University of South Dakota, SDSU, several of our schools. We put people together in the public school systems and the Department of Education. They came up with a curriculum that you folks funded at our request. Last year, it was so successful, a year ago now, that we asked you to expand the program. By popular demand, it was asked, don't take it to the first and second. Take it to the first, second, and third grades, and let's accelerate it and get it done quicker.
Honestly, the only criticism I received was a school teacher in one school system who complained they hadn't had enough time to prepare themselves for the launch of their students in the fall, last September. That is the only complaint. I received reams of accolades responding to this program that's been put in place.
We've purchased with taxpayer funds from the state level 16,500 computers to augment what's going on in the K-12 schools out there. We are clearly number one in the nation. And it isn't important that we're number one with computers unless our people know how to put them to use and use them, our teachers can instruct with them and utilize their value, and the students can get the ability to enhance their learning by utilizing them. We have that in place in South Dakota.
US WEST gave us a donation of $17 million, every penny of it. As a matter of fact, the agreement that I negotiated with them provided that in all the non-US WEST territorythe territory that's covered by the private telephone companies, the municipal telephone companies, the co-op telephone companies like ours at Splitrock in Brandonthey would get the same benefit in their schools as all the other schools. US WEST agreed to that. It was a $17 million investment in what we call the Vtel program.
The state pays for all the networking in South Dakota. I am not aware of anyplace else in America where all the network costs amongst and between the schools for the utilization of technology are taken on as a state burden.
We've got the distance learning changes that have taken place at Northern State University. Ladies and Gentlemen, we asked you to make those changes last year. After debate and deliberation, you did. I'm going to send you the monthly report that I got for December. It will be in your mailboxes tomorrow or the next day. You've got to read what people can do when they get focused and get behind something. Incredible stuff has taken place since the fiscal year started July 1 at Northern State University with what they've done to move forward to launch into a distance learning specialty center for this planetclearly South Dakota, but for the planet.
We put a program with social workers in schools. Actually, when this was originally thought of, I didn't think it was that good an idea. I said, "Let's try it. Experiment." And I was up in Watertown on a Saturday at a session that was unrelated to government, and two ladieswe were using the vo-tech building facilities for the meeting hall, their auditorium. As I stepped off to the side later in the day, these two ladies that had been around a couple of hours approached me and introduced themselves. They were classroom teachers in the Watertown School System. They said, "Are you going to keep that program?" I said, "I don't know if it is any good." They said, "Don't get rid of it. It is the best thing that has happened to some of our kids."
Then they gave me an example of a young lady who was in the fifth grade, who'd been a pretty normal student. Then all of a sudden, the one teacher started to notice that she was becoming more and more marginal all the time, just kind of sliding down the slope of life. So they got the new social worker involved, and the social worker became involved with the young girl, went home, and met the parent. The young lady lived in a single-parent household, had a mother and a two-year-old brother. And the two-year-old brother was being raised by the fifth grader who was responsible for clothing and feeding and taking care of the little boy. The burdens were just too much. Frankly, this was a situation, fortunately, where the mother wanted help and was willing to have some, and it wasn't even public. There were some private agencies in the Watertown community that stepped forward and provided assistance and certain kinds of nurturing and other kinds of assistance for the family. And, they said, "Very quickly you could just see this young girl going boom, boom, boom; right back up the stairs to being a normal fifth grader." The burdens were lifted off her shoulders that no fifth grader should ever have to carry.
So, we expanded this program with your permission, and we now have it in 18 school districts. Sioux Falls runs their own program, funding it themselves, so we don't have to fund any of those within the Sioux Falls School District.
Then, in the last eight years, we've put, over and above the legislative funding, $12 million additional dollars into the purchase of equipment, specialized equipment, to make our tech schools at Sioux Falls and Watertown and Mitchell and Rapid City the best equipped tech schools in the nation for the subjects they teach. Really, it has been phenomenally successful.
As a matter of fact, if you look at Tech Trends last summer, the issue of Technical Trends, the entire issue of the magazine, about eight articles, is all devoted to what South Dakota has been doing and what has been taking place in South Dakota. I'm sure you all got from us a copy of the Newsweek article that was written in the last couple of months about what is going on in South Dakota with respect to technology in our schools.
No, we haven't done everything we wanted to do. We haven't been able to afford to do everything we wanted to do. But with the limited amount of resources we've had, folks, you can be terribly proud of what we have leveraged, because nothing on that list was there before we started to move forward together as a team in these directions.
Talk about helping children. We asked you for permission to start a statewide program of chickenpox vaccinations. It was a hotly contested discussion, but it passed the Legislature, thank God. And, for those that are willing to do itit is not mandatoryover the last two years, we've got almost 31,000, almost 31,000 students. If you'll remember, we were going to collapse it from the young people moving forward and from the Kindergarten moving backward so in a couple of years we'd get them all done. Well, we're almost there. We've had 30,000 students that have been immunized for chickenpox over the last two years.
We've got a statewide early childhood screening program. We had some rural hospitals that couldn't afford the screening devices to check the hearing of the newborns, and we purchased them with Department of Health funds and actually just gave them as a donation to those hospitals that said they couldn't afford it. Because it is so important that all kids in this state, when they are born, very quickly have a hearing examination so determinations can be made as to whether or not they need any special kind of assistance and, if so, What's the special assistance they need so we can get them off to the best start we possibly can?
Bright Start Boxes, which you are all familiar withwe've distributed 19,200. Of all the programs I have ever been involved in, I don't think I've ever received more Christmas cards, birthday cards, notes written with fingerprints, footprints, droolLord knows what else they come inbut all these thank-you notes are for those little packages. As a matter of fact, as part of that program, last year we started a responsive parenting program, put it on public television, used the facilities of some true experts. We've got international experts in early childhood development that live in South Dakota and work in this state. Putting them to use, we've had 650 parents that have had this responsive parenting course, and 782 have responded and received materials from having watched it on public television, in addition to the 650. We are really breaking ground with respect to breaking the cycle in some families of the inabilityI don't honestly know any people I've ever met that carried a child to term and then wanted to abuse it. It just doesn't happen. It just doesn't happen. But we've got people that don't know how to be parents. We've got some families that are in their fourth generation of dysfunctional families. And the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, but it falls a little from the tree. So every generation, you've got apples falling a little bit all the time. Pretty soon, you've got a terrible mess. It's exactly what we have in some families. So, moving forward on this has really been an exciting venture.
We asked you, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Legislature, several years ago, Would you assist us in legislation dealing with fetal alcohol syndrome? I've told you this before, but as long as I live, I'll remember. And I'll tell the story of the woman from Davison County, years ago when I was Governor, that gave seven children to the State of South Dakota, all of whom had fetal alcohol syndromeseven of them, all of whom had fetal alcohol syndrome. A study by the State of North Dakota one time determined that someone with fetal alcohol syndrome costs taxpayers about $1.5 million worth of special assistance and help in the course of their lifetime in terms of medical needs, special education needs, and, a lot of times, criminal justice needsvery expensiveand fetal alcohol affect. The tragic thing is, these aren't things that God does to you. They are 100 percent preventable, 100 percent preventable. We actually got some legislation that's enabled us, helped us to move forward. Some of the Indian tribes have also jumped into this program to help, and this has been just really an exciting venture to see us moving forward in this regard.
The early intervention of juvenile offenders program that you've heard us talk about before, we've had, as of todayI had them get these statistics this morning. Eight thousand four hundred sixty-eight young boys and girls, teenagers, basically, that have gotten themselves into trouble with minor violations of alcohol or drugs have not had to go through the court system, who have been able to be diverted utilizing the resources of the court system and the state's attorney's office. A decision was made not to formalize anything. And when I say 8468, that's the successful ones that, at this point, have not been back in troublea phenomenally good program.
Then we have the General Patrick Brady Boot Camp, and we have the Quest program for girls. Both of them are marvelous programs. Their success rate is three out of four. That rivals anything anyplace in the nation anywhere in any kind of program, public or private. But, where you get a child who's gotten to the point in their life where a judge has made the determination they should be removed from their family and their community and placed into someone else's custody, three out of four of them have successful treatment. The boys' is a program of about four months, three months boot camp and one month intake. The young girls are about a month to a month and a half longer. Truly phenomenal.
We asked you for a program, as I said, to deal with immunization. If you remember the statistics from years ago, we've gone from 62 percent immunization of what I call age-appropriate shots for measles, mumps, rubella, whooping cough, chickenpox, and those sicknesses. We've gone from 62 percent age-appropriate shots to 79 percent since 1995. Just think of that, folks. How many kids aren't going to be sick? How many won't be blind? How many won't have mental problems? How many won't have all kinds of afflictions because of the program that you Ladies and Gentlemen were willing to put your weight behind and all our money behind?
Let me talk about some other problems that we've addressed. We asked you last year if you would give us the funding, and we got some funding also from the private sector, to have a statewide diabetes checking period. In April of this yearand actually we'd have liked to have done it later, but the Diabetes Association had already announced that period, so we utilized that periodthere were 590 sites. Over a one-week period of time, there were 31,000. This is the first time, the Centers for Disease Control has told us, as best they know, this is the first time any state has ever done this in a statewide effort. We tested 31,500 people for blood sugar and almost 3000, it was 2900 and some, so I say 3000 of them had elevated blood sugars and were referred to their family doctors.
We tested 24,700 for high blood pressure. And listen to this. A third of them, 34 percent is what the number was, but over 8000 of them had elevated blood pressure, and we referred them to their doctors. Just think of what we were able to accomplish.
That organ donor program where we got your permission to have people sign up for being organ donors on their driver's licensesthe legislation lets me, if I want to make that decision, to formalize it. It can't be reversed after I am gone or as I am leaving, either way, if I make that decision. Fifty-four thousand eight hundred South Dakotans have responded and identified themselves formally as organ donors to give life to somebody else. Think about that. What could be a greater gift than, as you leave, to give somebody the stuff, the parts, the organs you are not going to ever again need, be it a heart or a lung or a kidney or a pancreas or a liver or a bowel or a stomach or Lord knows what, the cornea or tissue from the skin as these medical things advance.
We hear very little today about the problems of doctors in rural areas. We've been very successful with that, again with a new program that we asked you to pass and you did. You worked with us on it and massaged it. And the program that we passed says no longer will we give you a free education. You go to med. school, you go to an appropriate community, and when your loan payments become due every year, we'll make your loan payment. That program has worked very, very well.
This is a bragging point by me, but during the eight years that I've been here this time and the eight years before, over 50,000 miles of rural water pipes have been laid in the ground. That would circle the earth twice, plus. Over 50,000 miles have been laid in the ground.
We've got the Missouri River land transfer program. You gave us permission to accept it. Working with Senator Daschle, the Corps of Engineers, Congressman Thune, Senator Johnson, this legislation was able to get passed through the Congress. Three times it had to go through. Now, but for a lawsuit, it would be done. Most of it is done. The lawsuit will be over in the not-too-distant future. Then we are going to be able to fix up the mess that the Corps has left us and the remaining campgrounds that have to be fixed up.
We've had a program, and I realize, folks, I understand as much as anybody, the risk in putting inmates to work. I really understand that risk. We work very hard to make sure they are classified properly. We work very hard to make sure that we pick the right people and that certain offenders, even on good behavior, can't participate in the program. Secretary Bloomberg and his staff, Warden Weber, those people are phenomenal in terms of how they perform.
We wired the schools. We did a $100 million wiring job, folks, for $15 million.
In terms of roofing, for the last four years, I've had roofing crews for state office buildings. They have put on 68 roofs representing 3.2 million square feet, have put on all kinds, from the vulcanized roofs to the shingle roofs to the tar and gravel roofs. You name it. But our inmate crews, and these people are highly skilled when they get out of prison, but the savings to the taxpayers are in the tens and tens and tens of millions of dollars.
We have tuck-pointed 32 buildings including this one at 10 different sites, 32 different buildings in 10 different communities.
Our inmates have fought forest fires. I can remember last year during the Roger's Shack Fire on that one road south of Highway 18, the inmates that we'd had working out in Custer State Park the previous winter were trying to widen the fire path on the road, the clear zone. We went by a spot with that inmate crew working and came back about 45 minutes later. Honest to God, they'd gone about a quarter of a mile. I never saw people in my life who could cut trees down like these folks. And the praise that the public gives them, the adoration that they get, the respect that they're shown, they respond like anybody. It is truly phenomenal how well they've done.
We've got them out there thinning forest now. We have a crew, as I speak, that is working for the US Forest Service, thinning in their forest. And then we've also got them working in Custer State Park. I really had a goal, by the time I left office, to try and get Custer State Park completely done. We probably won't make it.