MINOT, N.D. – Gov. Doug Burgum today delivered his 2018 State of the State Address at Minot State University, reflecting on the state’s challenges and collective accomplishments during his first year in office and outlining strategies to empower people, improve lives and inspire success.
“The State of the State is one of unlimited promise and potential, provided that we embrace change, we diversify our economy and we harness the unstoppable forces of technology,” Burgum said during the address in MSU’s Ann Nicole Nelson Hall.
The governor highlighted signs that North Dakota is on the upswing after a prolonged downturn in oil and agricultural commodity prices that required the Legislature and governor to reduce the state’s general fund by an unprecedented $1.7 billion. Gross domestic product and taxable sales and purchases are up, and state tax revenues are running slightly ahead of forecast for the 2017-19 biennium.
However, a significant revenue gap is likely entering the 2019 legislative session. While the state’s balance sheet is strong, reserves will not be as robust as they were heading into the 2017 session, Burgum noted, so much work lies ahead to match expenses to revenues.
The governor celebrated that the Legacy Fund, a voter-approved trust fund for oil and gas tax revenues, topped $5 billion in value last year. While interest from the fund was used to help balance the budget last session and may be needed again, Burgum said he’s not in favor of tapping the fund’s principal and would like North Dakotans to think creatively about how the state could use the earnings for something transformative with long-term impact, as opposed to using it just to fund basic services and operations of government.
Oil production is on track to reach record levels this year, with the state producing close to 1.2 million barrels per day in November, and the coal and wind industries also remain strong, underscoring the state’s all-of-the-above energy approach, Burgum said.
Burgum emphasized the “whole-of-government” and listening approaches taken to address multiple crises in 2017, including the multi-agency efforts to bring the Dakota Access Pipeline to a peaceful resolution and help livestock producers and residents through a historic drought and wildfire season. More than half the state remains in moderate drought and 92 percent is abnormally dry, so drought challenges could extend into this year, the governor said. A collaboration-versus-litigation approach taken with Minnesota through creation Fargo-Moorhead Area Diversion Task Force also has breathed new life into the stalled project.
Burgum announced plans to tour all 11 of North Dakota’s public colleges and universities in 2018 – starting today with a tour of Minot State University – as the Task Force for Higher Education Governance he established continues to assess if changes are necessary to the nearly 80-year-old governance structure to ensure higher education meets the state’s educational and workforce needs for the 21st century
“We want to listen to the needs of students, faculty, staff and the community, and we want to make sure we get an understanding of where we and how we can create a governance system that allows our higher education to be nimble and dynamic at a time of dramatic change,” he said.
Burgum also announced the dates of the second Governor’s Summit on Innovative Education, which will be held June 6-7 at Northern Cass School near Hunter.
The governor shared progress updates on his administration’s five strategic initiatives: Reinventing Government, Behavioral Health and Addiction, Transforming Education, Tribal Partnerships and the Main Street Initiative. Cross-cutting initiatives across Cabinet agencies include the Vision Zero statewide traffic safety initiative announced last week spanning the North Dakota Department of Transportation, Department of Health and state Highway Patrol.
Efforts to strengthen partnerships between the state and Native American tribes have been advanced with visits by the governor to all four tribal nations headquartered in North Dakota. Based on those visits, action plans are now being developed with each tribal nation to address issues such as transportation, law enforcement, economic development and addiction. A two-day “Strengthening Government to Government Relations” summit is scheduled for Jan. 30-31 at the Ramada Inn in Bismarck
“We all want the same thing. Bright futures for the children, opportunity, safety. Let’s go figure out how to get it done,” Burgum said.
Burgum highlighted results stemming from the 13 Activate Main Street meetings held in communities across the state. Communities large and small are creating unified plans aligned with the Main Street Initiative, which aims to empower local leaders and communities to attract a 21st century workforce. A resource toolbox is now more easily accessible through MainStreetND.com, and national and local experts on community development will speak at the first Main Street Summit Feb. 12-13 in Bismarck.
The governor recognized military members for their service, including airmen from the Minot and Grand Forks Air Force bases, as gave special recognition to Lynn Aas, a World War II Army veteran who served during the Battle of the Bulge and last year was awarded France’s highest military honor, the Legion of Honor medal.
Among several challenges Burgum issued throughout the speech was to share gratitude, quoting President Theodore Roosevelt, who said, “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is working hard at work worth doing.”
“We have won the prize. We have an opportunity to empower people, improve lives and inspire success every single day,” Burgum said. “Let’s go make it happen."