RAPID CITY, S.D.– During a recent campaign stop in Rapid City at the Hotel Alex Johnson, Governor Kristi Noem spoke to residents about topics that were of the most important to them in the final 12 days before the election.
COVID Vaccines and Mandates
“It’s up to every individual if they want to get the vaccine and for their family,” Governor Noem stated. “The CDC unanimously just voted to put the COVID vaccine on the schedule of vaccines required to go to public schools in the United States. As long as I’m governor, it will not be a required vaccine to go to public school.” As of October 26, the state Department of Health reports the number of cases of COVID-19 statewide is over 264,000. Noem cites the vaccine being experimental as a main reason for not making it a requirement for kids going to schools across the state and is against the idea of requiring vaccines for jobs and servicemen and women.
The Timber Industry and Forest Management
According to Noem, the current administration has not been as involved in forest management, with decreased maintenance and logging contracts in the area. Should this continue, she adds, overgrowth and insects such as Mountain Pine beetles could get out of hand and increase the risk of damage to trees. The likelihood of more forest fires could also increase, she adds, which would threaten the homes and lives of residents living in the Black Hills. “We’ve had contracts that have been delayed, that have been stopped. I think we know that for the last several years our timber industry has been struggling. But at the time when we were growing and needing supplies for construction and buildings and homes, it was pretty sad for us not to prioritize our resources that we have right here,” Noem explained. “We have one of the only thriving timber industries in the country left, and when we lose those jobs, it’s very difficult to get them back.”
“When we talk about doing some kind of a reform for homeowners, it will raise taxes more than likely on commercial who pays three times more than others are already, and then on agriculture, and it turns into a pretty controversial subject,” she explained. “All property taxes stay local. So for us, when we look at reforming property taxes, we like to have schools online because they get the money– about half of it and the county gets about half of it.” Assessors she says, may look at certain features that could add to an increased value, therefore increasing taxes residents pay. Noem also explains it is important for residents to go over assessments.
According to the Governor, the State of South Dakota is growing around 10 times higher than the national average. While in office, Noem has worked to bring high-speed internet access to residents across the entire state and create a railroad from Pierre to Rapid City for transporting goods. However, as good a sign as it is, she says there needs to be a balance between growth and preservation. “I’m a big believer that it’s what we needed to do. It just happened really fast. And so we’re going to have to grow smart in a way that that we do it wisely, that we can maintain it for a period of time. And still try to keep our quality of life.”