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Governor Dalrymple Delivers 2015 State of the State
Post Date: Jan 07 2015

In delivering the State of the State address today, Gov. Jack Dalrymple said North Dakota’s strong economy and sound fiscal management make possible additional tax relief as well as investments in statewide priorities including infrastructure, education and meeting the challenges of growth.
“Two years ago I stood before you and reported that the state of our state was strong,” Dalrymple said. “Today, I am pleased to tell you that we’ve made great progress since then, and that North Dakota is stronger than ever.”
North Dakota has reduced taxes by $4.3 billion since 2009, and Dalrymple recommended that the legislature make even more tax relief a priority.  The legislature also will have an opportunity to pass a property tax reform bill that provides for more spending discipline, and makes it easier for taxpayers to understand how their tax dollars are used in comparison to other political subdivisions, Dalrymple said.
North Dakota has also made great progress on road and highway improvements, water supply projects and should continue to invest in the state’s infrastructure needs.  At the same time, North Dakota remains committed to advancing critical flood protection projects, Dalrymple said.
In just the past four years, the state has also leveraged nearly $90 million in tax credits and incentive funds to support the development of about 2,500 housing units reserved for low-to-moderate income residents and for essential service employees in western North Dakota.
“Never before in our state’s history have we undertaken such an ambitious, ongoing campaign to improve our roads and highways, expand water supply systems, advance flood control projects and develop affordable housing,” Dalrymple said.  “These projects enhance the quality of our lives and support our growing economy. “
Public Safety            
As the state’s population and commercial activity have grown, Dalrymple and the legislature have worked together so that North Dakota continues to be one of the safest states in the nation.    
Since 2011, the state has steadily expanded the capabilities of the Highway Patrol, the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the state’s judicial system and the Department of Correction’s parole and probation services.
For local law enforcement officers in western North Dakota, the region’s rapid growth has created significant challenges.  Within the last four years, the state has provided about $20 million in impact grants to help equip, train and staff local police departments and sheriff’s offices serving in North Dakota’s oil-producing counties.  The state has provided another $30 million to support the region’s fire and emergency medical services. 
Oversight of the Oil Industry
The remarkable amount of commerce throughout North Dakota requires that the state continue to strengthen its health and environmental protections as well as its oversight of the oil and gas industry, Dalrymple said.
Since 2011, the state has significantly expanded its regulatory staff within the Oil and Gas Division and the Department of Health, and Dalrymple has recommended funding for 22 additional positions within the Oil and Gas Division and 19 more within the Department of Health. Additionally, the state has adopted new oil conditioning standards to improve the safety of crude oil for transport; required major reductions in the flaring of natural gas and has revised more than 60 sections of regulatory code to strengthen environmental protections.  Dalrymple has also recommended new positions within the Public Service Commission to augment federal oversight of rail safety and pipeline integrity.

“We should all be proud of the vital role our state is playing to help America strengthen its energy independence,” Dalrymple said.  “We have become the nation’s second-largest oil producer, and as our energy production has increased so has our responsibility.”
North Dakota has steadily improved its K-12 education system, putting to rest the challenging issues of funding equity and adequacy.  The state has also significantly reduced the local cost of education by increasing the state’s funding commitment.   Dalrymple said the state has an opportunity to build on its success by maintaining strong funding for K-12 schools, by
investing in early childhood education, and by addressing the extraordinary needs of schools challenged by rapid enrollment growth.
North Dakota’s strong revenues also allow for continued investments in higher education, while most other states are reducing their funding.  Working together, the governor and legislature have improved the way North Dakota’s universities and colleges are funded, and have made major investments in capital projects and other improvements.

Moving forward, the state can continue to invest in the university system’s critical infrastructure needs, but should focus on programs that make college more affordable for students, Dalrymple said.

The state’s strong economy and sound fiscal management allow for continued investments in other priorities as well, including workforce development, improvements to the state’s park system and other quality-of-life enhancements.
“Here in North Dakota, we continue to drive an agenda for progress and a quality of life that is second to none,” Dalrymple said. “We know that progress comes with its own challenges and there is much work ahead.  But we have every reason to be optimistic about our state and the increasing number of opportunities it provides.” 
During his address, Dalrymple also spoke about recent declines in oil prices and the potential impact on state revenues.
“It’s important for the people of North Dakota to know that we are committed to a structurally balanced state budget, where ongoing spending never exceeds our available, ongoing revenues,” Dalrymple said.  “There are risks associated with any economy that relies on the value of commodities, and those risks must always be carefully considered.  We guard against these risks in several ways, including directing the vast majority of our oil and gas revenues – about 96 percent – to special reserve funds that are not used for ongoing operations.”

North Dakota’s investments in statewide infrastructure projects and other capital projects require one-time funding that doesn’t have to be repeated should state revenues decline.
In February, a new state revenue forecast will be completed and will help guide the legislature’s work, Dalrymple said.

“If adjustments to our spending plan are needed, I am confident our legislature will make prudent decisions based on the best available projections,” Dalrymple said. “In the end, I expect our legislature will find that we can continue to fund our priorities, maintain healthy reserves and provide even more tax relief.”
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