Yesterday while sitting in for Jay Thomas on WDAY AM970 I interviewed Governor Jack Dalrymple about his announcement earlier in the week calling for a special session. The full audio is below.
My first question was why he didn’t call for one earlier in the year.
“Well, because we didn’t have to,” he responded. “I’ve heard this discussion before. Back in March I had called for a 4.05 percent allotment reduction in budgets in North Dakota which is something that is provided for by law. And at that time the Democrats said ‘oh we need a special session because we need to restore a bunch of money to some of these budgets’.”
“I disagreed with that then and I disagree with it now,” he added.
I asked Dalrymple specifically about a claim Democrats have made, which is that oil tax reforms passed by the Legislature were costing the state $11 million per month.
“I’m really surprised that they continue to go down this path on the oil tax collections and try to portray the Legislature as having cut oil taxes,” Dalrymple said. “You pointed this out very clearly in some of your information that this is absolutely not the case. The Legislature got rid of the trigger which would have eliminated one of our major oil taxes completely. That has resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in additional oil tax revenue that we would not have collected.”
[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]”The Legislature got rid of the trigger which would have eliminated one of our major oil taxes completely. That has resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in additional oil tax revenue that we would not have collected.”[/mks_pullquote]
“I did a little math on this and I think it’s possible that by the end of the biennium we could be four or five hundred million dollars ahead,” Dalrymple continued. “How you talk about that as a cut in oil taxes still kind of baffles me. I don’t see how you can make that case.”
I also asked Dalrymple if he felt the state had spent too much money during the oil boom.
“Rob, somehow I just had a feeling that you might ask me that question,” he said.
I then pointed out that Republican Doug Burgum had criticized spending repeatedly during his gubernatorial primary campaign against Wayne Stenehjem, and it seemed based on the outcome of that race that most of the primary voters seemed to agree with Burgum.
“Yeah, and he campaigned as a conservative, and that’s very interesting,” Dalrymple said before blaming the overspending on forecasts.
“But the fact is, Rob, there’s several things to say about this notion of overspending. You have to understand that we during the last legislative session were in a place where we’re dealing with a forecast on the revenues that would come into the state of North Dakota. Those forecasts are inevitably based on assumptions on commodity prices…all of the numbers are built on that.
“If the assumptions are wrong…that sends all the other numbers haywire,” he continued. “Thank goodness that this Legislature absolutely contemplated the possibility that may happen, and they set aside amazing amounts of reserves. Got to give them credit for that.”
So if the forecast was wrong, I asked, does that mean the state needs a new forecaster?
“I don’t really think so,” Dalrymple responded. “I think what we’re dealing with is just the inherent volatility in having a state that inevitably has an economy that has a lot to do with the value of commodity. We’re all about agriculture. We’re all about energy. It’s hard to avoid impacts from rising or falling commodity prices.”
But he did say a change is possible.
“All of this is something the Legislature can discuss,” he said. “This is a service that you can buy. If people would like to look around for a different service provider than can definitely do it.”
Here’s the full audio.