Gov. Doug Burgum today delivered his 2019 State of the State Address, reflecting on substantial progress made during his first two years in office and outlining an ambitious policy agenda that addresses the state’s workforce challenges, increases accountability and budget transparency and makes major investments in people and projects that will benefit North Dakotans today and well into the future.
Speaking to a joint session of the 66th Legislative Assembly on the opening day of its 2019 session, Burgum highlighted the state’s record-high population of 760,000; its No. 1 quality of life ranking; strong assets derived from abundant natural resources such as soil, water, coal, wind, gas and oil; and private-sector prosperity driving the state’s robust economy.
As a result of these factors and the foundation laid by the Burgum-Sanford administration in its first two years, North Dakota is positioned to make smart, bold investments with long-lasting impacts while delivering a fiscally conservative and structurally sound budget that improves transparency and replenishes reserves – all without raising taxes, Burgum said.
“We stand at the cusp of a new era in North Dakota’s history. And by harnessing the courage to dare greatly, we will cultivate a prosperous future for generations to come. With action, we will shine,” Burgum said.
A persistent workforce shortage remains the No. 1 gating factor for economic growth in North Dakota, Burgum said. He stressed the need to redouble efforts to meet the challenge by:
- Dedicating $30 million in Legacy Fund earnings to create more career academies across North Dakota, like the successful collaborative between Bismarck Public Schools and Bismarck State College.
- Reforming the state’s occupational licensing system, which the Workforce Development Council identified as a potential barrier to filling jobs.
- Shifting from a single-board governance model for the state’s higher education institutions to a multi-board governance model to create deeper accountability and enhanced responsiveness to market demands and increasing competition.
Re-emphasizing priorities outlined in his Executive Budget presentation last month, Burgum advocated for investing significant resources in evidence-based and cost-effective programs to address the state’s behavioral health crisis, while also recognizing First Lady Kathryn Burgum’s leadership in efforts to eliminate the shame and stigma of the disease of addiction.
The governor repeated his call for fully replenishing the state’s rainy-day Budget Stabilization Fund to guard against future economic downturns; being more transparent about the use of $1 billion in oil tax revenue to balance the general fund and keep ongoing expenditures in line with ongoing revenues; investing in team members through salary increases and health insurance coverage; and injecting $265 million into the state’s pension fund to help close a $1 billion unfunded liability gap, saving taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars down the road.
Burgum also encouraged action on major components of his plan to use earnings from the state’s Legacy Fund on initiatives that will have regional, state and national impact, leverage the earnings and create positive, lasting effects for the state’s economy and workforce, including:
- Dedicating $55 million for an infrastructure revolving loan fund that will leverage an estimated $370 million in borrowing power local political subdivisions to support infrastructure projects, plus an additional $25 million investment in the school construction revolving loan fund to leverage $165 million.
- Targeting $30 million for a statewide UAS infrastructure network to cement North Dakota’s status as a proving ground for UAS and support commercial operations including automated farming, precision agriculture, and monitoring of essential energy infrastructure.
- Investing $50 million, with a 2-to-1 match from private donors and other sources, for the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum at the entrance to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, creating a major tourist attraction and educational center. Burgum noted the proposal has already received statements of support from the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Theodore Roosevelt V, the president’s great-great grandson, with the National Park Service, Theodore Roosevelt Association and National Park Foundation also pledging support for the project.
Burgum highlighted the considerable progress made on the administration’s five strategic initiatives – transforming education, tribal partnerships, reinventing government, behavioral health and addiction, and the Main Street Initiative. In the spirit of mutual respect, Burgum announced that the Governor's Office will begin to display the flags of the five tribal nations with whom North Dakota shares geography outside the Governor's Office in Memorial Hall. --- alongside our state and national flags.
The governor also recounting circumstances that tested their resolve during the first two years in office, from pipeline protests to crashing commodity prices, to historic drought, to the stalled Fargo-Moorhead diversion project – now moving again after last week’s permit granted by Minnesota – to having to close the largest budget gap in state history.
“Our state is ready to go to the next level because of the tremendous progress made in the last two years,” Burgum said. “Our forward-looking agenda is focused on solving our workforce challenges, increasing accountability and budget transparency, investing in our people and investing in our future.”
Burgum expressed his gratitude for farmers and ranchers, energy producers and others who have continued to innovate and invest in North Dakota through difficult market conditions, and thanked members of the military, including the North Dakota National Guard, for defending our freedoms at home and abroad.
“We look forward to working with all of our leaders here in Bismarck, across the state and in our nation’s capital to reach our fullest potential and make the most of our opportunity to empower people, improve lives and inspire success,” he said.
The State of the State Address, as written, can be viewed here.
A handout outlining the Burgum-Sanford administration's budget and policy agenda for the 2019-21 biennium is available here.