South Dakota does not have a budget crisis.
That's one of the points Gov. Mike Rounds made when addressing attendees of Girls State at the University of South Dakota Friday morning, June 4.
The governor made the statement in reference to a question about the state's overall economic outlook. He said the $107 million in reserves that existed before the recession began three years ago are still there.
"We've also had less money coming into our revenue stream than we had three years ago," Rounds said. "At the same time, we've balanced our budget every single year, and we haven't touched our reserves. You don't see that in the political ads because that doesn't help people when they're trying to tell you that there is a real problem in state government."
He added that people are also misinformed on the issue of taxes.
"Sometimes people talk about the fact that, 'Oh, those people in Pierre are just raising our taxes,' but did you know that we haven't had any tax increases? None. They're not there," Rounds said. "So we're getting by simply (through) becoming more efficient and using one-time dollars wherever possible."
Rounds encouraged the Girls Staters to consider entering politics, but conceded that attitudes such as these might make them "run away" from it.
"If you look at it at the national level and unfortunately sometimes at the state and local level, you'll see people look at it as something that is less than desirable because we have a tendency to strike at one another rather than talking about policy, talking about differences," he said.
"If we keep politics in a position where it becomes an issue of debating about new ideas and about ways in which we can make improvements, I think more people would want to get involved in politics. Politics does not have to be dirty. It does not have to be mean. It can be a case of trying to make things better for the next generation."
Rounds said he hoped audience members would make this a goal of their own.
"You are the best of the best," he said. "I think that's probably something we don't say enough. You have very special talents and abilities, but you also chose to do something with those talents and abilities. You worked hard, you developed them and you improved on what you had to make yourself better."
The governor said he had two points he wanted to make concerning the girls' career choices when they finish high school and college.
The first of these had to do with the nature of business and work in South Dakota, compared to large cities.
"Most South Dakota companies don't have thousands of employees," Rounds said. "If you take a job in a large company in another state, you can expect to have a very specific job where you will be doing a very specific task for a long, long time."
In a South Dakota company, an employee could expect to perform up to 10-15 different tasks each day, he said.
"In a few months, you'll probably move on to do something more and different," Rounds said. "In a job here, you'll learn more, you'll learn it much faster, and because of that you will advance faster."
The second point dealt with South Dakota's ranking as last in the nation in terms of wages.
"It's true, but it's the wrong statistic to look at," Rounds said. "The stat that matters the most is how much money you have left in your pocket after taxes, and then how much you can buy with it. …
"Many young people discover when they take a high-paying job in another state, they really don't have more money to spend because, in many other states, they have higher taxes, and they have higher costs of living," he said.
Rounds said the state used to rank near 24th-28th in the nation when the cost of living was factored in, but now ranks 10th.
He told the audience members that while he hoped they would all be successful, they should remember that with success comes responsibility.
"If you are truly going to be a problem-solving person, also remember that there's nothing wrong with being recognized as being kind and generous," Rounds said. "As talented as you are, you can really change the world."