Posted: Sunday, July 14, 2013 10:46 pm
As a born-and-raised Arizonan I will always have a special place in my heart for the Grand Canyon State. But I have to say, in the past 10 months I’ve become a little enamored with my new home.
South Dakota is certainly having a good year. On Tuesday, as you might have heard shouted from the rooftops, CNBC ranked the state as the top place for business in the country. But that isn’t the only honor South Dakota has racked up this year. A report from the Mercatus Institute in March ranked us as the second “freest” state in the entire nation, trailing only its sister state, North Dakota – once again with high praise for our low taxes and regulations. And just at the beginning of July the state’s highway system was ranked in the top 10 in the country.
OaheInc June 2013
Government seems to be doing well also. People on both sides of political aisle have commented that this past legislative session was eerily harmonious and bipartisan, as evidenced by the overwhelming approval of SB 70, the overhaul to the state’s criminal justice system. And as Gov. Dennis Daugaard likes to keep reminding us, the state has passed a balanced budget – not using accounting tricks or gimmicks – since its first year of existence.
When I left my perennially sunny home last fall, the state was still waist-deep in debt. It was fired up over our controversial immigration policy and residents had the same thought about the Legislature as they did Congress. Oh, and on all the reports mentioned above? I can say with mixed emotions that Arizona fortunately didn’t sink to the bottom of any lists, but neither did it float to the top.
In short, from my perspective, what South Dakota is doing seems to be working.
Now, before I’m accused of being too overly sentimental about the Mount Rushmore State, let me say that I do realize we have problems. A January report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy showed South Dakota with the third-most regressive tax system in the country. And, as someone who works in an industry that traditionally pays peanuts, I’m none too thrilled to be in one of only seven states that taxes groceries.
The CNBC and Mercatus Institute also listed us as being down at the bottom when it comes to technology and innovation and incarceration rates, respectively.
And the Legislature isn’t always that harmonious. I’m told 2012 was a particularly charged year politically, and you can take a look at the partisan vote on the school sentinel bill this past session to see we can easily split into Republicans and Democrats.
I could go on listing problems, such as how weak our open records laws are or how small we are (my hometown has a population greater than half this state). But I could also go on talking about how friendly the people are or how easy it is to talk with government here compared to back home.
All of this is to say that, while every state has its issues, in the long list of places a job could have taken me South Dakota is far from the worst. So take it from this former outsider; take a moment to enjoy the accolades. We’ll start working on the rest tomorrow.
David Rookhuyzen is a Capital Journal reporter and can be reached at [email protected]