<< All News Tuesday, January 23, 2024 - 02:06pm

Gov. Doug Burgum today delivered his 2024 State of the State Address, announcing an initiative to develop a comprehensive housing strategy for North Dakota as well as the launch of a new Office of Community Development & Rural Prosperity to empower communities through efficient development, economic growth and enhanced quality of life. 

In his final State of the State Address as governor, Burgum addressed students, business leaders, legislators, statewide elected officials, local leaders and others in Dorothy Stickney Auditorium at Dickinson State University. The governor noted how his time sharing North Dakota’s story with the nation over the past several months underscored the need to do a better job of raising awareness about the state’s status as an agriculture and energy juggernaut.

“Today, the State of our State is underestimated – yet we have never been stronger,” Burgum said, noting North Dakota is tied with Maryland for the nation’s lowest unemployment rate at 1.9% and has an incredibly strong balance sheet, full reserve funds and record population.

With reserves exceeding $1.3 billion and general fund revenues already running more than $154 million, or 11%, ahead of forecast just six months into the two-year budget cycle, Burgum renewed his call for North Dakota to become the 10th state to eliminate individual state income tax as a way to save taxpayers money and boost workforce recruitment and retention. Last April, the Legislature passed and Burgum signed a historic $515 million income and property tax package that included a record $358 million in income tax relief, effectively eliminating the individual income tax for 3 out of 5 North Dakota taxpayers. 

“We have taken incremental steps for far too long. It is time we say goodbye to the state income tax. This is a tax collected by the state, controlled by the state and used by the state – so the time is now to tell our citizens, your money belongs in your pockets,” Burgum said. “I challenge the 69th Legislative Assembly to take that final step, join the nine other states with no income tax and eliminate our state income tax once and for all.”

With workforce still the No. 1 barrier to economic growth in North Dakota, the Legislature and Burgum administration tackled a major roadblock to workforce participation last year when they approved a $66 million package to address child care availability, affordability and quality. Today, Burgum called for similar collaboration through a series of listening sessions among public and private stakeholders in the housing sector to identify solutions to the state’s housing shortage and develop a comprehensive housing plan for the 2025 Legislature to consider. The effort will focus on improving housing availability, affordability and stability. 

“As we continue to grow and attract new residents, new workforce, we must ensure that everyone has access to safe, affordable, and quality housing,” Burgum said.

The Office of Community Development & Rural Prosperity will be located within the Department of Commerce and will focus on key initiatives to drive sustainable growth and prosperity across the state, including strengthening collaboration and coordination among stakeholders, enhanced focus and strategic planning tailored to the unique needs of each community, and supporting economic diversification to make rural areas more resilient. 

“North Dakota’s long-term prosperity depends on the success of its communities and rural areas,” Burgum said. “The Office of Community Development & Rural Prosperity marks a crucial step in driving economic progress across our entire state.”

Burgum stressed the need to double down on efforts to make North Dakota the most military-friendly state in the nation. The governor signed a proclamation declaring 2024 as the Veteran and Military Suicide Prevention and Awareness Year, inspired by, and developed in conjunction with, the American Legion’s “Be the One” program to clearly connect with veterans struggling with the thought of suicide. Burgum also announced that the state will expand marketing of the 988 Suicide and Crisis hotline, starting immediately with the Governor’s Office website and each cabinet agency displaying the 988 icon with links to resources for anyone in need. 

“We encourage any state agency, government entity or business to follow suit and proudly display the 988 icon to raise awareness around suicide and destigmatize the fear of asking for mental health support,” Burgum said. 

Burgum also announced that the Theodore Roosevelt Center at DSU will house the Morris Archives, an extensive collection of private research and memorabilia from Pulitzer Prize-winning history Edmund Morris, who wrote extensively about Roosevelt including well-known works such as “Theodore Rex” and “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt.” The Morris Archives were recently acquired by the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library. 

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