State budget is like a blizzard forecast

December 9, 2017 GMT

Seriously: Who could have guessed South Dakota’s governor spoke 140 words a minute?

Dennis Daugaard revealed that odd but intriguing fact about himself Tuesday afternoon.

The governor had met with news reporters after his budget speech to a House full of state lawmakers.

A newsman asked who worked on the speech. The answer gave a glimpse at the process behind the scenes.

The governor said part of the speech came from Tony Venhuizen, his chief of staff who happens to be his son-in-law as well.

Next the governor said Liza Clark. The commissioner of finance and management – the first woman, by the way, to hold that important post in South Dakota – sat to his right.

And last came Daugaard.

The governor said he took final responsibility. The goal, he said: One hour, tops.

That’s where 140 words a minute came in.

Turns out Daugaard timed his remarks as he tried out some versions beforehand.

The speech had another feature: Slides.

They were innovative 20 years ago when then-Gov. Bill Janklow used them.

Now they are standard. Legislators, lobbyists, cabinet members, news reporters and citizens in general have come to expect them.

They likely would be shocked if a governor now broke with the tradition and gave a speech without slides.

Clark and some of her staff in the Bureau of Finance and Management were again responsible for the 64 images displayed, one after another, on the big screen front left.

“It helps to have slides,” Daugaard said.

Daugaard didn’t engage in flights of rhetoric Tuesday. The news he gave to legislators was somber.

South Dakota is okay, the governor said, but isn’t growing enough to give more money to public schools or to raise the pay for most state government employees and providers.

He also suggested taking $7 million from state government’s reserve funds to help get through the current budget year that began July 1.

Afterward, his outlook seemed like a weather forecast. A snowstorm was on its way. Stay indoors, wait it out. The sun would come out again afterward.

For Daugaard the speech was his eighth set of budget recommendations. He has been governor seven years.

A few weeks after he began his first term as governor in 2011, Daugaard put together a special budget address.

South Dakota’s economy was still mired in the 2008-2009 recession.

Daugaard called for 10 percent cuts. They were twice as deep as the departing governor, Mike Rounds, had recommended the month before.

The new governor and the eighteen legislators on the appropriations committee – fifteen Republicans and three Democrats – eventually found ways to get some cuts somewhat smaller.

There were no raises that year. There were no raises this year. There might be no raises next year.

For Daugaard, the message was tough to deliver, whether the year was 2011 or 2016 or 2017.

The silver lining is we got through. The governor said he is confident the sun will shine again. We certainly hope so.

Meanwhile, shop more at home. Much, much more.