It is an important time in South Dakota history.
Not unlike almost eight years ago when a seemingly timid lieutenant governor made bold moves in his first few days as governor.
Two weeks into his new administration, on Jan. 19, 2011, Gov. Dennis Daugaard stood figuratively and literally alone to call for budget cuts of at least 10 percent throughout the state government departments and offices under his control.
“The gun is at our head,” he said. “I’m tired of looking at death from a thousand paper cuts.”
At that time, he said spending from the state’s general fund must be reduced $127 million in order to bring the budget back into balance with the estimated amounts of tax revenues.
It put his sanity in serious doubt with many South Dakotans who were about to bear the brunt of such cuts. A few days earlier, Daugaard showed his seriousness by starting with himself when he announced he was going to take more than a $15,000 pay cut as governor.
Last month, with just a few weeks left in his second and final term as governor, Daugaard outlined his last state budget proposal as a “needs budget,” not a “wants budget.” Daugaard was proud to be talking about a $4.8 billion balanced budget for fiscal year 2020 that will begin on July 1.
“We don’t spend money we don’t have,” Daugaard said during his hour-long farewell address to the lawmakers and other interested parties gathered in the Capitol’s House chamber in Pierre.
Also listening was Kristi Noem, elected as the state’s first female governor. Noem will use Daugaard’s proposed budget as a basis for her own.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to build on Gov. Daugaard’s foundation ... and his unwavering commitment to South Dakota,” she said.
Noem will have a lot to live up to financially. Daugaard brought South Dakota to the land of fiscal responsibility.
That’s rare these days, in a time when our elected leaders often don’t see anything wrong with spending money they don’t have.
That bottom-line mindset sets the table for an important and exciting point in our state history.