Congratulations to the class of 2015! To all high school, college and technical school students now approaching graduation in South Dakota, I commend you for reaching this milestone. After years of studying, taking tests and writing essays, you’ve finally made it. Congratulations on all you have achieved!
Most of you probably already have a good idea of what you’ll be doing next – what additional education you’ll seek or what career you’ll pursue. Whether you’ve decided to stay in South Dakota or pursue a career or education elsewhere, I hope you’ll ultimately consider a future here in our state. There are a number of reasons to consider living and working here.
First, we have the fourth lowest unemployment rate in the nation at 3.5 percent, compared to the national rate of 5.5 percent. Job opportunities are better here than in most places.
Secondly, the tax burden in South Dakota is low. We are among only a few states without an income tax, meaning you can keep more of the money you earn. Money that can repay student debt, buy a house someday or replace that car you drove into the ground in school.
Third, not only do people keep more of the money they earn in South Dakota, but that money will buy more here than in other places. According to a U.S. Department of Commerce report, South Dakotans experience a very low cost of living in the United States. We don’t spend as much money on housing, insurance, food and the other everyday needs. In fact, we have some of the lowest costs in the nation. In New York, California, Washington, D.C., or many other places, you will find costs that are 10 percent, 12 percent, even 18 percent higher than the national average. In South Dakota those costs are only 88 percent of the national average.
Now some people will say, “There may be a low tax burden and low cost of living, but I won’t get paid as much if I live in South Dakota.” Actually, when it comes to per capita personal income, we fare pretty well. Nationally, we rank in the top half. And, if you adjust the per capita personal income for the low cost of living, we are the fifth best in the nation. If you adjust for lack of income taxes, we rank third in the nation.
Beyond the financial reasons, though, South Dakota is a great place to live because we have a good quality of life here. Our communities are safe, our public schools are high-quality and our people are friendly. We also have clean air, clean water and beautiful scenery. And you can’t put a price tag on the love and support of your family, here in South Dakota.
My hope is not that you will never venture outside of our state, but rather that you would consider a more permanent future in South Dakota. Your dreams can come true – right here at home.