Friday, May 6, 2016

A Message to the Classes of 2016

A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard

Congratulations to the class of 2016! 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 lowest unemployment rate in the nation at 2.5 percent, compared to the national rate of 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 12 percent, 15 percent, even 18 percent higher than the national average. In South Dakota our costs are only 88 percent of the national average.

Now some people will say, “South Dakota may have a low tax burden and low cost of living, but I won’t get paid as much if I live there.” 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 to add cost of living and taxes, we rank fifth in the nation.

After I graduated from USD, I hitchhiked my way to Chicago to attend law school at Northwestern. I’d lived in South Dakota my whole life and I was ready for something bigger, something more exciting. I wanted to experience life in the bright lights of a big city. I finished school and decided to stay in Illinois for a few years to practice law. Still, over time, I came to miss seeing the stars at night, enjoying the wide open spaces and having the company of friendly, down-to-earth people. I was glad to have experienced something new and different, but I was ready to come home to something better.

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. Most of all, I hope you will come to realize, as I did, that your dreams can come true right here at home.