State of the State: Dalrymple says fund priorities responsiblyBISMARCK — North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple had two main themes in Tuesday’s State of the State address: “Keep what’s working,” and “Where do we go from here?”
By: TJ Jerke, Forum News Service
BISMARCK — North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple had two main themes in Tuesday’s State of the State address: “Keep what’s working,” and “Where do we go from here?”
Dalrymple kicked off the 63rd Legislative Assembly with his speech to a joint-session of the 141 legislators and other state dignitaries that filled the House of Representatives chamber.
“In state government itself, we have found a model that has stood the test of time,” he said in his speech. “Which is to fund our priorities responsibly; build strong reserves for the future; and provide tax relief whenever possible.”
He highlighted the state’s achievements in regard to rapid expansion in the state population, oil and natural gas production, significant increases to tourism and the entrepreneurial spirit that is driving the state’s success.
Rep. Thomas Beadle, R-Fargo, said Dalrymple’s address got the ball rolling for the Legislature and made it clear there will be many issues to take care of this session.
“His address helps us get focused,” Beadle said. “We went home for the holiday’s after our organizational session and kind of let our minds wander.”
Beadle said the address, again, pointed out the need for property tax reform. As a commercial Realtor, Beadle said Gov. Dalrymple’s proposed property tax ideas are aggressive, but are much needed.
The high demand for infrastructure in western North Dakota also was addressed, and Dalrymple proposes $991 million in one-time funding to help those needs.
Likewise, Dalrymple said the state is addressing the housing issues, and needs to “keep what’s working,” like the Bank of North Dakota’s FlexPace program, which is providing loans to contractors and developers to build low-interest housing.
The program, mixed with the Housing Incentive Fund, will benefit 16 communities across the state this biennium with the construction of 739 housing units, Dalrymple said.
After the speech, Senate Minority Leader Mac Schneider said, “The time for high-fives is over.”
“Now that the State of the State is behind us, the session is facing us,” said Schneider, who is from Grand Forks. “We have immediate needs that need to be addressed this session … so we can prepare for life after the oil dissipates.”
Schneider, along with Senate Assistant Minority Leader Joan Heckaman, of New Rockford, and Representatives Kenton Onstad, the House minority leader from Parshall, and Assistant Minority Leader Corey Mock of Grand Forks, stood side-by-side and pointed out that the state has an opportunity to look even further down the road.
“We will focus our legislative efforts not only on meeting the challenges that North Dakota will continue to experience in the next two years,” Schneider said, “But also capitalizing on opportunities that will make our state stronger in the next two decades.”
Onstad said health care is another area critical to the future growth of North Dakota and needs to be addressed more, as well as a more long-term plan for infrastructure that looks 20 years down the road.
The Democratic leaders agreed these are exciting times and there are some bipartisan ideas that both parties will push through, but Onstad said there will undoubtedly be some struggle this session as Democrats are significantly outnumbered.
“I want to remind everybody it’s the policymakers now that have to take (Dalrymple’s) vision and put those competing ideas on the table,” he said. “We can come up with good compromises if everyone is willing to compromise and that is what we are looking for this session.”
While much attention is focused on western North Dakota, Beadle said Tuesday’s speech showed Dalrymple has not forgotten about the entire state.
“The need is great out there, but he indicated there are many areas the state can benefit from on the east side,” Beadle said.
Dalrymple also pointed the Legislature to the future, mentioning the 2020 and Beyond visioning process that has the state partnering with the Greater North Dakota Chamber to listen to ideas about a better future.