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Wrigley touts state’s economy in Reagan lecture

FARGO — Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley touted the state’s strong economy during a talk Thursday at North Dakota State University as part of a lecture series devoted to the conservative principles attributed to former President Ronald Reagan.

Wrigley said it was his goal to let the audience, consisting largely of NDSU students, know that public policy choices have allowed North Dakota to have the fastest-growing economy in the nation.

“It is not an accident. We didn’t come to this place by happenstance and luck,” he said.

Though he said the state has been very fortunate, it’s also “not a guarantee at all.”

That’s why he said it’s important to be strategic about government spending, and it’s not the time to “divide the loot.”

Wrigley acknowledged the governor’s office has been criticized for the size of the state’s budget reserve, or rainy day funds.

North Dakota has a tradition of keeping its government at the right size and budgets that “matter” — only priorities are funded, he said.

Wrigley said setting priorities for spending on infrastructure, education, public safety and tax relief helps the most citizens and improves the state for those who inherit it.

There’s a moral component to government spending because 40 cents on every dollar is borrowed from future generations, he said.

After Wrigley’s lecture, political science professor Kjerston Nelson discussed Reagan’s legacy.

Nelson said Reagan wasn’t the likeliest of presidents.

“This type of biography reminds us that public affairs and even a premier elected office is open to every citizen in this country,” she said.

Though Reagan is most known for inspiring a conservative movement and “lending his name to a string of economics,” Nelson said she was most surprised by his pragmatism.

Nelson said he signed sweeping immigration reform into law, which would have seemed pretty “radical” in today’s climate.

Brothers Carl and Jerri Pfiffner, two NDSU alumni, endowed the lecture series in the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences to invite speakers that appreciate and promote Reagan’s ideas.

In its inaugural year, former North Dakota Gov. Ed Schaefer presented the lecture. Ann Burnett, associate dean for the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, said they tapped into the College Republican student group to invite Wrigley for this year’s lecture.

When the endowed lecture series was created, Burnett said the school struggled with showing favoritism to one political school of thought.

But she said it is important to expose students to the ideas in the lecture as part of the wide array of perspectives on campus.

“You have to come hear different perspectives. That’s what college is all about,” Burnett said.