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North Dakota Governor's Office Transition Ceremony

Tuesday, December 7, 2010 - 11:30am

Governor Dalrymple's remarks:

Members of the Assembly and distinguished guests. Thank you very much for your kind welcome. It will be an honor for me to serve as Governor of the great state of North Dakota and to serve with my Lieutenant Governor – Drew Wrigley. Drew is a former state prosecutor, a former Senior Advisor to the Governor, a former U.S. Attorney, and, best of all, his family roots are in Burke and Walsh counties.  I know I speak for both of us when I say that we look forward to the serious responsibility now entrusted to us.

I feel very much at home here in the House chamber, having spent 8 sessions here in this room – I used to sit over there where Representative Devlin is sitting. I liked that spot because you could slip back to the leaders’ office or the men’s room without much notice. Of course it was more complicated in the Senate… the only way to get a break there was to put the whole Senate in recess.

But thank you all, and especially Rep. Carlson and Sen. Stenehjem for the opportunity to make this a very special day for myself and my family. After 16 years in the House and 10 years as Lt. Governor, I am ready to serve as your governor. It causes a person to reflect a bit on the journey, and to consider those who have been with you along the way. In addition to my 4 daughters, my 3 sisters, and a host of other relatives and good friends, I would like to acknowledge two very special women who have always been there for me. The first, of course, is my amazing wife who has been my true soul mate ever since she was a senior in high school. Words cannot express my gratitude to Betsy. Betsy, would you please stand.

The other person who has meant so much to me used to drive me to Carl Ben Eielson elementary School in Casselton in 1953. She’ll be 95 years old at the end of this month. I am so happy that you are able to be here today, Mom… please welcome my mother, Mary Morrison.

The last person I’m going to single out will forever be a big part of my life story. In the spring of the year 2000 he gave me an opportunity to be an integral part of his team. Betsy and I thought he looked promising, but honestly we had no idea what a great leader he would become. After winning the election for Governor in 2000 he telephoned me and asked me to take responsibility for the state budget, for the legislative agenda, for K-12 Education, and for agricultural policy including the development of value-added enterprises. For the last ten years these have been nothing but dream assignments for me, allowing me to pursue the work that always interested me the most. Serving as your Lieutenant Governor these last ten years has been a very rewarding experience for me, and none of it would have ever been possible without the help and confidence of my good friend, John Hoeven. Mikey, thank you for letting John run and John, all I can say is, “The U.S. Senate had better get ready - there’s a new player coming to town like they’ve never seen before.”

The record of the Hoeven – Dalrymple administration is now history, and John gave you a good review of the achievements. There’s an old saying around Casselton … “Always stick with a proven winner,” and I think we all know we’ve got a good thing going in North Dakota right now. Statistics can be boring, but I think there are a couple that speak loudly about the effectiveness of our policies over the last 10 years.

In 2001 we set out to create more jobs – jobs that become careers, jobs that keep young people in North Dakota, jobs that allow you to buy a home here and raise a family. Today North Dakota has the lowest unemployment rate of all 50 states. The national rate of unemployment is 9.8% … Ours in North Dakota is 3.7%.

In 2001 we set a course toward jobs and industries that would improve peoples’ incomes. Since we took office, wages have grown 46%, versus 29% for the nation as a whole. Personal income has grown 59%, versus 31% for the nation. And most importantly, per capita income, after trailing the national average for decades and sitting in 38th place in the year 2000, is now ranked 18th among all 50 states, the highest in our history.

When I go to meetings around the country, people still ask me if North Dakota isn’t just the beneficiary of an oil boom. I’m proud to tell them that even with the Bakken discovery, just 25 percent of our state revenue collections come from oil and gas.

The fact is, we have seen significant growth in all of our industries over the last 10 years - technology, tourism, agriculture, and even in manufacturing, where most of the country has reported severe declines. Our low statewide unemployment rate is evidence from one corner of North Dakota to another - in all of our major cities and in small towns in between. No single industry tells the whole story of the great progress we’ve made.

Looking ahead, everyone can expect to see a continued focus on job creation. Using our Department of Commerce and our statewide network of economic developers, we can take advantage of our outstanding business climate and create new enterprises as well as expand existing businesses. Growth can be expected to come from all sectors and from customers throughout the world. Our North Dakota Trade Office, another one of my assignments, is looking at a world of opportunities for our state’s exporters.

In 2000 we set out to provide more support for elementary and secondary education. Our immediate challenge was to hold on to our good teachers, and our proposal for a $3,500 salary increase for every teacher spoke to everyone in North Dakota - not just teachers. The proposal was enacted by the 2001 legislature, and the momentum provided by that initial proposal has continued to this day.

As time went by, we decided to take on the education issues put to the people of North Dakota by the school funding lawsuit. With the concurrence of the Governor and the Attorney General, I asked the plaintiff school districts if they would consider participating in a Commission format to resolve the issues of Equity and Adequacy in school funding, using a process that would produce a good solution without years of costly court time and legal fees. What was the end result? The dismissal of the lawsuit and two landmark pieces of school funding reform legislation: SB 2200 in 2007 and HB 1400 in the 2009 session. My personal thanks to Governor Hoeven and Attorney General Stenehjem for entrusting me to chair the Governor’s Commission on Education Improvement.

In 2000 we also made a commitment to fiscal responsibility in state government. We made a pledge that we would not raise taxes and we kept our pledge. Most people have probably forgotten that it was actually necessary to implement a small allocation in 2002 in order to balance the budget. My entire experience on House Appropriations occurred during years when there were absolutely no extra General Fund dollars available. Back then, the Governor’s budget proposal called for an ending fund balance of just $10 million, about 3 days worth of funding, and there were no Reserve funds or Stabilization funds like there are today. People would come to Appropriations all winter long, asking for more money for a worthy program, and time after time we would have to say “no”… because we were responsible for balancing the state’s budget.

Those years of fiscal caution in the 90’s and early 2000’s were what made it possible for all of us to now enjoy the benefits of working with extra financial resources. We don’t have back debts to pay off as most states do. In fact we have dedicated revenue sources for all of our bonds, which means that we have no General Obligation debt.

So if you were Governor, what would you do with the state budget when there is funding available? Tomorrow I will tell you in great detail how I believe we should proceed. I’ll have some new ideas about infrastructure, about quality instruction in our schools, and new ideas for funding higher education.

But that can wait. Today I simply want to say “thank you” to all of you who have been part of making North Dakota the envy of the nation. I think you know that I have truly enjoyed serving as your Lieutenant Governor and have really enjoyed working with our great legislative assembly. Thank you for your support in the past, and for the support I know you will give me in the coming years. God bless you and God bless North Dakota.

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

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