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Dakotas officials spar over which state better off

SIOUX FALLS (AP) — Some officials in the Dakotas are sparring good-naturedly over whether the North or the South is better off.

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North Dakota's energy boom has people flocking to the state in search of jobs, and money flowing into the state coffers and the state economy. But South Dakota also has a strong economy and low unemployment, and some leaders there say that state has a better quality of life.

"North Dakota's got liquor stores that are bursting at the seams. We'd much rather have schools that are bursting at the seams," said Dusty Johnson, chief of staff for South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard.

Johnson told the Argus Leader newspaper that some top advisers to South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard have joked about running billboards in North Dakota saying, "Today you've got a job; come to South Dakota and get a life."

South Dakota must be jealous of North Dakota's best-in-the-nation unemployment rate, near billion-dollar state surplus and booming job growth, Greater North Dakota Chamber of Commerce CEO Andy Peterson said, though he acknowledged that the oil boom has come with drawbacks such as an increase in crime and skyrocketing housing rental rates.

"We'd much rather have our problems of having a hard time to find a place to live and property values going up than the staid, steady environment he (Daugaard) has down there," Peterson said. "We'll take our problems above his problems any day."

Johnson said South Dakota isn't trying to slam North Dakota. Daugaard and North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple are friends.

"To the extent that both North Dakota and South Dakota have impressive economic stories to tell right now, it seems to me that the South Dakota economic story is really the better one," Johnson said. "It's the one that's based on factors that are going to be more long-lasting."

Replied Peterson: "We don't have Mount Rushmore, but we've got a lot of things going for us."