State of the State in North Dakota

Curtis Jabs    

For North Dakota’s Gov. Jack Dalrymple, this is the 15th
State of the State address he’s attended, first as a legislator, then as lieutenant governor, and now as governor. I’ve attended many of these addresses as well. But this will be my last one as a Basin Electric employee, because I retire at the end of the month.

It’s no big surprise that the 2013 State of the State address focused on oil development, and the blessings and challenges that come with it.

But there was moment that got the loudest applause, and rightfully so. Dalrymple mentioned the two North Dakota National Guard soldiers who died in Afghanistan recently: Sgt. 1st Class Darren Linde and Spc. Tyler Orgaard.

The governor said the state’s population is now 700,000 people, which is the highest it’s ever been, and since 2000, more than 60,000 new jobs have been added. Dalrymple said the state is producing 747,000 barrels of oil per day, and since 2010, we’ve doubled pipeline and rail capacity from less than 500,00 barrels to 1 million barrels. The production of natural gas has also more than doubled from two years ago.

He mentioned CHS Inc., formerly Cenex-Harvest States, and their plan to take natural gas and convert it into nitrogen fertilizer near Spiritwood, ND. He also talked about Summers Manufacturing in Devils Lake, ND, which makes cultivators, sprayers and other agricultural equipment. Summers earned North Dakota’s Exporter of the Year Award in 2008, after increasing its export sales by 50 percent. Deb Anderson, Summers president, will be in
Washington, DC, in February attending an awards luncheon recognizing her and other women for their outstanding contributions to the nation’s manufacturing sector.

He talked about education, water management, health and human services, and infrastructure. Dalrymple said the state has moved 13 additional state highway patrol troopers to oil country, and he is proposing to hire 15 additional troopers for the state. He proposed increasing the
Department of Transportation’s budget by more than $500 million for road and highway improvements, and another $1 billion for state highways, county road systems, township roads, bridges and interchanges. That would make the DOT’s total budget $2.7 billion.

He said the demand for housing is growing faster than builders can build. He proposed expanding an incentive for builders through the Bank of North Dakota’s FlexPace program, which provides loans to contractors and developers to building with interest rates as low as 1 percent. He would like to quadruple the amount of money available through FlexPace. The governor
also addressed rent that has become unaffordable for many people. He said the Housing Incentive Fund has reached the maximum allowable investment of $15 million, which means 739 housing units will be built in this biennium, which will benefit 16 communities across the state. (Read more: Opportunity to help build low income housing) He said the need for affordable housing is so great, he recommends increasing the Housing Incentive Fund to $50 million in the coming two years.

Dalrymple is not concerned spending will get out of control. He said, “I believe many people have been watching our national budget crisis with great concern, and they naturally are worried that the same situation could develop at the state level. It has not and it will not happen in North Dakota because we are committed to a structural balance in our state budget,
where ongoing spending for established programs never exceeds the ongoing revenues available for spending.”

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