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In a recent column published in this paper, Gov. Kristi Noem discussed some of her thoughts and ideas on economic development in South Dakota, as well as how to improve the lives of South Dakotans.

Like Gov. Noem, we have heard from many of our constituents who are struggling to get by, and we agree on the need for more economic development and for state government to do what it can to help those struggling to make ends meet.

We are hopeful this common ground can lead to progress being made toward these goals in the 2019 legislative session. At the same time, her record in Congress, the ideas she discusses in her column, and the actions she has taken during her transition leave us concerned that the economic development Gov. Noem has in mind will not benefit all South Dakotans.

For example, the tax cuts she voted for in Congress, and touts in her column, not only exploded the national debt, they overwhelmingly favor the wealthy and large corporations at the expense of everyone else. Further, she voted dozens of times in Congress to take health care away from thousands of South Dakotans and remove protections for people with pre-existing conditions. If she and her Republican colleagues had been successful in these efforts, it would not only have had a negative impact on the health of South Dakotans, but also the health of our economy, as people would have had to pay more for worse coverage, and bankruptcies due to health care costs would have skyrocketed.

Finally, we’re also concerned about what the number of large campaign donors in her announced cabinet and staff – including her choice to lead the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) – says about her governing priorities. Does she intend to govern on behalf of those large campaign donors or average South Dakotans?

Gov. Noem has a responsibility to recognize she wasn’t elected with a big mandate and needs to reach out to the half of South Dakota that didn’t vote for her. If she does, there are many things we can do together to make life better for the working people of our state, such as investing in early childhood education, ending the sales tax on food, granting paid sick and family leave to employees of large corporations, and expanding Medicaid – which would be good for the health of our people, our state budget, and our state economy.

Though we had many policy differences with Gov. Dennis Daugaard, Democrats were pleased to work with him on several important issues that made life better for average South Dakotans – such as working to expand Medicaid in our state, increasing education funding, improving tribal relations, reforming our criminal justice system, improving our state’s infrastructure, and investing in real, grassroots economic development.

In the same way, we stand ready and willing to work with Gov. Noem where we can to make South Dakota an even better place to live. However, we will stand up to her when we need to, so that our state government works for everyone, not just the wealthy and well-connected, and so our state economy provides opportunity for all South Dakotans. And we will hold her, and the Republican majority, accountable when they fail to live up to their campaign promises and the common values we hold as South Dakotans; fairness, honesty, and integrity.

We agree with Gov. Noem that South Dakota’s best days are ahead, and hope that she will work with us to ensure all South Dakotans, not just those at the top, can enjoy the blessings of our great state.

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State Sen. Troy Heinert (D-Mission) is the South Dakota State Senate Democratic leader.

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