Video: Dalrymple State Of The State Speech Seemed Written For A Different North Dakota

The video above is of Governor Jack Dalrymple’s 2015 State of the State address (jump forward to about the 25 minute mark if you want to skip a lot of gavel-pounding and pompous ceremony). Like all of these sort of events, it was heavy on self-congratulatory politics, but what struck me about the speech was that it seemed written for a different North Dakota.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#000000″ txt_color=”#ffffff”]”North Dakota is stronger than ever,” Dalrymple said during his address, but is it? With a budget built on assumptions about oil prices that might be overly rosy? Is North Dakota strong with a vastly expanded population and economy based on a commodity that has been hemorrhaging value?[/mks_pullquote]

The references to the state’s strong economy and largely content population were expected, but there was no acknowledgement of the crossroads the state finds itself at. The boom stage of the state’s oil development is over. Things aren’t going back to the way they have been over the last couple of bienniums.

In fact, I thought it was remarkable that Dalrymple delivered a “state of the state” address that spoke so little to the state North Dakota finds itself in. And by that I mean the potential impact on state policies and appropriations (not to mention hiring, population growth, etc.) that plunging oil prices may have.

“North Dakota is stronger than ever,” Dalrymple said during his address, but is it? With a budget built on assumptions about oil prices that might be overly rosy? Is North Dakota strong with a vastly expanded population and economy based on a commodity that has been hemorrhaging value?

Dalrymple did address oil prices saying “risks must always be considered,” but then he seemed to poo-poo concerns over oil prices by saying that “energy independence in America is a game changer.”

And if you can figure out what he means by that, I’d like to know. Politicians like to talk about “energy independence,” but outside of the political bubble its utter nonsense. Energy, and specifically oil, is and always will be a global market. The idea that North Dakota and by extension America are somehow immune now to the vagaries of this market is a bit ridiculous.

Dalrymple’s one brief nod to oil price concerns seemed almost perfunctory. An add-in to Dalrymple’s rote oil boom era speech about a growing economy, population, etc., etc. Almost an afterthought, embedded in a lot of braggadocio about all the new spending the state’s going to be doing.

After the speech I texted some lawmakers, who didn’t want to be on record critical of Dalrymple, and they shared my reaction. Dalrymple’s speech was out of touch.

He’s far too sanguine about oil prices. “In the end our growth may be slowed, but it will not be stopped,” Dalrymple said.

He may be right. I wish he gave me the feeling that we were a little more prepared in case he’s wrong.

By the way, Dalrymple and others poo-poo concerns over oil prices by suggesting that we can roll-back one-time expenditures and that we haven’t grown on-going expenditures that much. Except, we sort of have. Since the 2007-2009 biennium on-going state expenditures have grown 91 percent according to Legislative Council.

We’ve supported this growth in on-going spending because of the impact oil and gas development has had on our state revenues. Can we support it of that development falls off?

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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