Gov. Kristi Noem talks agriculture, state budget, Ukraine in Mitchell stop
Mar. 15—MITCHELL — Gov. Kristi Noem again floated a veto of the state budget in her criticisms of the priorities approved by lawmakers in an overwhelming vote last week.
The potential presidential hopeful also clarified remarks she made earlier this week criticizing American policy in Ukraine.
Framed by farming equipment at C&B Operations in Mitchell during a signing ceremony for a bill limiting "frivolous" agricultural nuisance claims, Noem's comments on March 15 came during her first extended discussion with in-state press since the end of the 98th legislative session last week.
Currently, nuisance lawsuits in the state are quite broad, covering any action that "annoys, injures, or endangers the comfort, repose, health, or safety of others."
House Bill 1090, sponsored in the Senate by Republican Sen. Josh Klumb, of Mitchell, would limit standing in these nuisance claims to an owner or lessee of "real property" within one mile of the "source of the activity or structure alleged to be a nuisance."
The bill would also raise the bar for evidence in a nuisance lawsuit, as plaintiffs would have to bring "clear and convincing evidence" that the damages arise from actions that do not comply with existing regulations.
Noem made clear that state, county and city requirements still stand and that the bill is not a free pass for agricultural operators.
"All we're saying is who can file a claim and who can't," she said. "We want it to be someone that is in that area and has been impacted by that ag operation."
In pushing for the bill, Noem and other advocates have consistently framed certain lawsuits against agriculture operations, especially those by environmental groups, as damaging to the wider economy.
"[Environmental activists] don't necessarily care where our food comes from or how it's produced," South Dakota Farm Bureau President Scott VanderWal said. "They've got their own separate agenda."
Barring any here-and-there vetoes, the lone layover from the legislative session is what exactly Noem plans to do with the state budget.
"I still believe the people of the state deserve a permanent tax cut," she told reporters. "So we're evaluating that. It's really hard to put my signature on a bill that doesn't bring that kind of relief."
On March 9, lawmakers finalized a state budget that increases funding to education and state employees by 7% and care providers by 5%, though larger increases are scheduled for several provider categories.
The budget also includes a four-year cut to the state sales tax, bringing the overall rate from 4.5% down to 4.2%, a move expected to return just over $100 million to taxpayers next year.
Noem repeated her disappointment with lawmakers opting for a temporary overall tax cut rather than her preferred grocery tax cut and increasing budget levels over her proposed 5% across-the-board increase.
"If they were going to spend that kind of money, they surely could be palms up and say that the taxpayers deserve to keep a little bit of their money, too," Noem said, calling the four-year tax cut a "tax holiday."
But legislative leadership has repeatedly pushed back on Noem's attempts to distance herself from the budget.
"In February, both the Governor's staff and the Legislature's economists advised us that revenues were continuing to come in strong, so we could afford to give teachers, nursing homes, and state employees a little more funding," Mortenson wrote.
Otherwise, lawmakers had adopted the "governor's recommended budget," Mortenson argued.
Moving forward, Noem has three options: sign the budget into law, veto the budget or do nothing, in which case the budget
would become law
on March 24.
She could also separately veto or take no action on the overall sales tax cut on the same timetable.
"These legislators have the opportunity to do anything on veto or during a special session, too," Noem said.
Over the past few days, Gov. Kristi Noem has ramped up appearances in national news arenas, criticizing Washington's actions on topics du jour like the bailout of depositors at the Silicon Valley Bank — "not the role of the government" to rescue "failing, woke banks," she
told Fox News on March 14
— and the now-yearlong Russian invasion of Ukraine.
shared by Fox News' Tucker Carlson on March 13
laying out the views of several "potential 2024 GOP presidential candidates" on Ukraine, Noem criticized American actions, arguing the Biden administration was pulling resources away from China, which she called the "primary external threat" to America.
The governor further made the case that a heavy-handed approach to financial sanctions had led to adversarial nations "consciously moving away from the U.S. dollar as the world's reserve currency."
She added that the war in Ukraine "should be Europe's fight, not ours."
While Noem softened some of these comments upon questioning Wednesday — "Russia is a horrible threat to the United States of America and Putin is an evil man," she said — her main critique of a lack of grand strategy held.
"We need to look at what we are doing here in Ukraine," she said. "Is it bringing us any kind of security, will it beat back Russia and will it make sure that the United States will be safer in the future?"
Noem's statements depart substantially from the public views of South Dakota's congressional delegation, all three of whom have been steadfast in their support for American aid.
"I believe it is most cost-effective, and best for the nation and world, to defeat Russia in Ukraine, rather than allowing the Russian army to make advances into NATO member countries which would obligate the United States to put American boots on the ground and further risk American lives," Sen. Mike Rounds, a member of the Armed Services committee, told Forum News Service last December following the passage of a
government funding bill
that included $44 billion for "Ukraine and NATO."
Jason Harward is a
Report for America
corps reporter who writes about state politics in South Dakota. Contact him at