South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem did not hesitate to brag about her state’s fully funded pension plan, low unemployment rate, or fast-growing economy as she took part in an exclusive town hall with The Conservative Digest’s “Rob Schmitt Tonight” host Rob Schmitt.
In the event, which aired Tuesday night, the rancher and recent first-time grandmother said the federal government should take note of the Mount Rushmore State when setting its own policies.
“We are proving that conservative values, when implemented, work and create opportunities,” she said.
She touted the state’s 9.9% Gross Domestic Product (GDP), its low 4.5% sales tax, and the “historic revenues” coming into the state. These have helped fund infrastructure projects, including a new railroad, and repair of bridges and dams that will “last the next 50 years.”
“People are moving to our state — not for our beaches and our wonderful weather — but they are moving by the thousands because they recognize that they want a government that respects them,” she said.
Noem said South Dakota would continue to set an example for D.C. lawmakers by demonstrating “what we believe, as fiscal conservative people, really does work and helps you be much more successful for generations to come.”
When the coronavirus pandemic took hold across the nation in 2020, Noem said, she did not want to be the sort of leader who overstepped authority, especially in a crisis.
She said she spent time with the state’s general counsel and attorneys who specialized in constitutional law to understand exactly what authority she did and did not have as she set strategy for battling the virus.
She recalled her first coronavirus press conference, during which she told her constituents she planned to share all of the available science, data, and information with them and provide all the support they needed. At the same time, though, she said she would trust South Dakotans to make their own decisions about what was best for their families.
“I just said, ‘I am going to trust you and we are going to get through this together,'” she recalled.
She pointed out she did not mandate a single business shut down, never required masks, and did not issue any shelter-in-place orders.
“I had to trust in the people of South Dakota,” she said. “They are the best people in the country. I knew they would know how to work hard and get through challenging times.”
What alarmed her the most during the pandemic? That the “media and liberals used fear to control people” and Americans “rolled over” and gave up their freedoms – of assembly, religion, speech – because the government told them they could not hold a meeting or attend church.
“We need to start educating folks on what the role of government is and what it isn’t, and then stand up for your freedoms,” she said. “We are just one generation away from watching it go away if we don’t consistently teach our children the value of those freedoms and what success they delivered to this country over the years.”
She attributes the influx of new residents and businesses to the state to its hands-off approach to governing.
While many people ask the government to “solve all their problems for them,” she believes that often, the best thing a government can do is get out of the way of a small business.
That approach, especially during the pandemic, is what she says has spurred more people to visit and ultimately move to “rural America” and “small towns,” where they can “enjoy a main street where all the neighbors sit and talk and work together and have a way of life that’s really special.”