PIERRE, S.D. -- South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard wants to lift South Dakota out of last place in teacher pay.

In his State of the State address on Tuesday at the State Capitol in Pierre he told legislators and a statewide public broadcasting network that, “"This is the year. This is the year to get out of last place. This is the year to act.”

The governor is recommending a half-cent increase in the state sales tax to fund the program. It would be the first permanent increase in the state’s portion of the sales tax in more than 50 years.

He wants to raise the average state pay for teachers from an average of about $40,000 to $48,500.

That he said would make the state competitive in teacher pay and move it out of last place in pay.

He said just a few years ago, some other surrounding states were in the bottom of the pack, too, but now Montana is 28th, Nebraska is 32nd and North Dakota is 36th.

“The situation is deteriorating for us,” Daugaard said. “The gap is is getting worse.”

Daugaard, in his second and final term as governor, also told the legislators on the first day of their session that “a new generation of quality teacher is needed” to help the state’s students maintain high achievement.

“We’re not going to get them unless we become more competitive with surrounding states,” he said about the teacher pay.

Democrats, in a small minority in the state legislature, said in a news conference after the governor’s speech they would like to go even further and raise the average pay to $50,000 with a student to teacher ratio even lower than what Daugaard proposed.

The Democrats said they would like to see a 1 cent sales tax increase to pay for the higher teacher salaries and to also cut out the sales tax on food in the state.

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