Daugaard sworn in as gov, promises budget cuts

PIERRE � Dennis Daugaard was sworn in Saturday as South Dakota's 32nd governor, and he vowed to embrace what he called the state's history of self-reliance, persistence, determination and frugality as he works to balance the state's budget.

In a 20-minute inaugural speech at the state Capitol, Daugaard told a crowd of about 1,000 that South Dakota "cannot spend more than we take in."

"And to the extent that cuts need to be made, everyone � everyone � must take a part and share in the sacrifice," he said.

Daugaard served as lieutenant governor for eight years under Gov. Mike Rounds, who could not seek re-election because of term limits. Rounds proposed a state budget before he left office, but Daugaard is expected to propose much deeper cuts when he presents a revised budget to the South Dakota Legislature on Jan. 19.

If spending continues at current rates, South Dakota would end up $140 million short of the revenue needed to balance the budget for the fiscal year beginning in July. Daugaard said the state should use reserve funds only for emergencies and must spend only what it takes in from taxes.

"It was a pretty forceful speech," said House Republican Leader David Lust of Rapid City. "He made it pretty clear what his priorities are and how he's going to govern."

Daugaard is one of 37 governors � 23 Republicans, 13 Democrats and one independent � elected or re-elected in November, and he joined those who used their inaugural address to focus on the state budget. Nationwide, state budget shortfalls are expected to total nearly $140 billion in fiscal year 2012, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington think tank.

Some of those states have run up large debts by funding programs for people who do not want to help themselves, Daugaard said, adding that his administration will seek to end in South Dakota what he described as a sense of entitlement that some have to help from government.

"I believe that South Dakota, our little state on the prairie, has an opportunity to show our sister states and our national government that there is a better way," Daugaard said. "Our values work. Our system works. Our state works."

Rounds had proposed 5 percent cuts in state aid to school districts and reimbursements to doctors, nursing homes and others who provide health care to low-income people in the Medicaid program. The departed governor also proposed using some reserves and the final installment of federal stimulus aid to balance the budget.

But Daugaard urged all state officials to help him look for savings by making every state office more efficient and less bureaucratic. He also paid tribute in the speech to his parents, who became janitors after financial trouble led them to sell their farm equipment and livestock.

�In South Dakota, we help our neighbor who stumbles. The many who earn their way come to the aid of the few who need a helping hand. But we must never carry the man who lies down,� Daugaard said.

�If we reward with entitlements those who shirk their responsibility to work, we will quickly find that the many will ask to be carried, and there will be too few left to bear the burden,� he said.

That message troubled Senate Democratic Leader Jason Frerichs of Wilmot, who said he feared Daugaard's will seek deep cuts to education and Medicaid.

�I would like to see a little more optimism that we're going to work our way through this,� Frerichs said.

Daugaard earned a bachelor's degree in government at the University of South Dakota in 1975 after working his way through college by washing dishes, waiting tables, welding on an assembly line and painting water towers. He graduated from law school at Northwestern University in 1978 and practiced law for three years in the Chicago area.

After returning to South Dakota, he worked as a banker for about a decade and later for the Children's Home Society of South Dakota. The organization provides services for children with emotional and behavioral problems, and Daugaard eventually became the group's executive director. He spent six years in the Legislature before becoming lieutenant governor in 2003.

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