Gov. Kristi Noem must have taken some liberties with her interpretation of “taxpayer dollars are not our own – they belong to the people of South Dakota.” Apparently, this doesn’t exclude her from deciding how best to use them, with a discernible tilt towards making herself look appealing in the conservative community.
In a recent eyebrow-raising expense, she earmarked $850,000 from the state’s emergency and disaster fund to deploy 50 South Dakota National Guard troops to the Texas-Mexico border for a month. As if the “emergency” of border security wasn’t engaging enough, she sweetened the deal with an additional deployment, funded through a generous $1 million donation from Tennessee billionaire, Willis Johnson. This joint expense makes for a smooth $1.3 million spent on a situation barely within South Dakota’s periphery.
South Dakotans might find a touch of irony in the hope that their emergency and disaster fund will not run dry, in the face of, say, a tornado, a flood or a wildfire. Perhaps the governor could redirect her propensity for emergencies closer to home, by addressing urgent matters like child care or affordable housing.
In a similar vein, Noem is steering the Freedom Works Here marketing campaign, designed to attract more workers to South Dakota. Although a $6.5 million expense, the governor, with all her charm, seeks to persuade businesses and communities to contribute an additional $10,000 towards the cause. Some have kindly given in, yet they still wait for the successful contacts that the governor promises.
Noem does not miss a chance to shine and ensures she shines bright in the commericals for Freedom Works Here. Coincidentally, the program’s timing aligns perfectly with the countdown to the 2024 elections, keeping the governor in the spotlight.
Most recently, Noem took an unexpected left turn. Instead of digging into taxpayer dollars, she decided to decline them. South Dakota was the lone state to forego its share of the federal Local Cybersecurity Grant program, amounting to $7 million over two years. Noem attributed the decision to bureaucratic red tape and the federal government’s spending habits. Far from coming across as fiscally responsible, however, this move only amplifies her conservative image, for which she seems to have a relentless appetite.
Noem’s keen interest in maintaining a conservative image isn’t misplaced, considering she is likely on former President Donald Trump’s shortlist of vice presidential candidates. A position she would love to retain. However, it would certainly be a refreshing change if she could do so without leaning on taxpayer funding. After all, as she states, the money belongs to the hard-working people of South Dakota, doesn’t it?
I was inspired to write this after reading “ South Dakota taxpayer dollars spent to make governor look good” at South Dakota Search Light by Dana Hess.