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Rounds says he's sprinting to finish

As his second term in office nears an end, Gov. Mike Rounds said he is still running at top speed.

"Just because we're coming to the end, we won't coast," Rounds said in an interview this week with The Daily Republic.

Rounds is prohibited by term limits from seeking a third consecutive term. His lieutenant governor, Dennis Daugaard, is running for the job against Democrat Scott Heidepriem. The election is in November, and the new governor will take office in January.

Rounds said there are about 50 projects uncompleted that he wants to prod state workers to wrap up before he leaves office. He held a Cabinet meeting Wednesday to discuss the projects.

The goal, Rounds said, is "being on course, not slowing down and not missing a beat."

Several of the projects are aimed at creating opportunities for young people to stay in the state, he said.

"That's still going to be our focus: How do keep young people here?" Rounds said.

According to the governor's office, virtually every state agency and department has projects to be finished or continued for the next governor.

They include such things as ensuring that state government buildings continue to be well-maintained and in good repair, both statewide and in the Capitol Complex in Pierre; progressing with development of the Sanford Underground Science and Engineering Lab at Homestake; and adoption of common standards for the teaching of English and math, according to a statement from the governor's press secretary, Joe Kafka.

While Rounds said he will continue to work to finish these projects, the governor said he realizes he won't accomplish them all.

Public Utilities Commissioner Dusty Johnson, of Mitchell, said Rounds is doing the right thing.

"I think that's admirable," Johnson said of the governor's plans to finish strong. "I think we all lament so many presidents and governors seem to have lame-duck periods."

He said Rounds' intention to work hard in his final months is "really good news for South Dakota. The business of South Dakota doesn't stop in July of an election year."

Johnson said Rounds has "done a pretty good job," especially on big-picture items.

"When you look at the big issues, South Dakota has had a lot of success in the last eight years," he said.

During Rounds' time in office, government barriers were removed to promote alternative energy, the Homestake lab became a reality and there was an increased focus on research at state universities.

"That is going to have a multi-decade impact on South Dakota," Johnson said. "That is not a small success."

He said Rounds has maintained a high degree of popularity because of his contact with voters and "regular people," even when some politicians were upset with him.

"When people express irritation with Mike Rounds, when you dive in, you'll find it's something smaller," Johnson said.

Rounds said his efforts to complete as much work as possible before he leaves public life isn't just about putting feathers in his cap.

He said in addition to completing his eight years in office in a positive way, he wants to allow the next governor to "hit the ground running."

On other topics:

n Rounds declined to comment on President Obama's announcement of a multi-billion-dollar package to repair the nation's infrastructure Wednesday.

But the governor said states need a clear message from Washington, D.C., on highway spending.

"It would be really nice if Congress would get their act together and give us a consistent plan," Rounds said.

The lack of a long-term federal plan prevents states from planning infrastructure projects, he said.

n Rounds said tax revenue hasn't settled on a consistent upward trajectory.

"The revenue picture doesn't appear to be brightening as we hope it will be," he said. "There's not a consistent growth."

Bank franchise fees are virtually nonexistent, Rounds said.