In North Dakota state law requires that we convene a session of our Legislature every January in odd-numbered years, just weeks after the election. It also requires that lawmakers hold an organization session in December and that at this session the Governor delivers a budget address.
But oddly, when we elect a new governor, the timing means the old governor still gives a budget address. What this means for our purposes today is that even though Governor-elect Doug Burgum will take over in Bismarck in seven days it was outgoing Governor Jack Dalrymple who delivered a budget to lawmakers today covering the first two years of Burgum’s term (the 2017-2019 biennium).
Anyway, here’s the full video of the address.
The property tax buy down is to be “enhanced.” I’m not sure what Dalrymple means by this, but it’s a problematic area of policy. What the state has been doing, in a vain effort to satisfy a public eternally upset about property taxes, is essentially buying down those tax bills with state dollars. But there are a lot of lawmakers concerned about the sustainability of that approach, yet Dalrymple seems to be proposing doubling down on it.
Dalrymple is projecting that the state’s reserve funds will increase by $1.1 billion. It’s a bold projection, but Dalrymple is suggesting that the state will not only tap into reserve fund balances to make ends meet in the 2017-2019 budget but that the balances in those reserve funds will also increase. We’ll see if that’s true. The state hasn’t exactly been hitting home runs with revenue projects these last few years.
A shout out to the law enforcement response to the #NoDAPL protests. Dalrymple touched on the $17 million the state has spent (so far) responding to the situation surrounding the Dakota Access Pipeline. The state “has had no choice” but to pick up the expenses given a leadership vacuum from the federal government. But in discussing these fiscal matters Dalrymple also gave a shout out to the law enforcement response to the protests, which he described as “awe inspiring.” He also name-checked Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier, ND Highway Patrol Colonel Michael Gerhardt, and ND National Guard Maj. General Al Dohrmann who were in attendance and rose for a standing ovation from the lawmakers. Overall law enforcement got two standing ovations from the Legislature. A nice moment given the flood of hate and recrimination aimed at our cops during these protests.
Dalrymple proposes draining the anti-tobacco swamp. The only big surprise for me during the address was Dalrymple saying he’s going to drain the $50 million+ war chest the state’s anti-tobacco bureaucrats have built and transfer it to the Department of Health budget. The Center for Tobacco Prevention and Control was created by voters with Measure 3 on the 2008 ballot, and it’s become the epicenter for anti-tobacco activism in the state. This biennium is the first time lawmakers can make changes to what was created by the initiated measure, and it looks like Dalrymple just gave them a command to drain the swamp. “A lot of smiles on the floor,” one lawmaker texted me during the speech.
I haven’t received any specific documents from the Gov’s office concerning the address. Typically they send out a transcript of the speech and some documents showing facts and figures. If I get those this time I’ll update this post.
UPDATE: The transcript is below. You can see the presentation slides which accompanied the address by clicking here.
UPDATE: Here is Governor-elect Doug Burgum’s response to Dalrymple’s address: “Despite a challenging revenue environment, Governor Jack Dalrymple and his team have worked incredibly hard to put together this budget. The budget is being thoroughly reviewed by my team and we look forward to working with the Legislature to balance the budget and fund our priorities, without raising taxes.”