As you know, next Tuesday is the primary election. All across the state, Republicans will get the opportunity to select their candidate for governor who will ultimately move forward to face the Democrat and Libertarian candidates for governor next November. It’s fair for voters to ask, what will you do?
First and foremost, we need to balance our next state budget.
Recent declines in commodity prices and the resulting tax revenue declines require a reevaluation of spending priorities. The simple truth is that we must reduce spending and do it in a way that minimizes the impact on the services we provide to our citizens. I am confident that we can fund our priorities of education funding, property tax relief and public safety without raising taxes. Our next state budget must also provide for our state’s long-term fiscal health and position North Dakota for continued economic growth.
Secondly, we must continue to diversify our economy.
[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]It’s been my honor to serve as your attorney general. I’ve dedicated my life to serving the people of North Dakota and have worked hard to earn your trust every day, always staying positive and optimistic while meeting our challenges head on.[/mks_pullquote]
The reason our economy, employment and state revenues have been as resilient as they have been even in this commodity price downturn is due in large part to the success our state has had in diversification. In fact, our success has been remarkable. From unmanned aerial systems to technology start-ups to value-added energy and agriculture projects, our state is seeing unprecedented growth and opportunity. Oil and ag prices will come back, but further diversification will ensure we weather the next downturn as well or even better than we did this one.
I believe in the free enterprise system. The most successful state driven economic development and diversification happens when we ensure that regulations are sensible and predictable and when our system of taxation and legal environment encourages investment. This formula is how we promote job growth and how business and industry can grow and prosper to the benefit of all of us.
One of the biggest threats to our state economy has been the Obama administration’s actions to place onerous and job-killing regulations upon our primary business sectors of energy and agriculture. As Attorney General, I have filed more suits against the federal government than any other attorney general in the country. In fact, from January 2004 through June 2015, I filed 60 challenges. Through these actions I have scored key victories for landowners, energy producers, and the public. As governor, I will also continue to fight to protect our state’s economy from an out-of-control federal government.
Addressing workforce shortages through education reform is another priority for me.
We have seen significant growth in high-tech manufacturing jobs and careers in North Dakota. As we prepare for a new future, there is a great need for a qualified workforce trained for technical work requiring math and science. Business people from all over state have told me about the challenges they face in finding workers who are qualified to work in these roles.
As your governor, I will bring together North Dakota’s education-related stakeholders and develop and fund a new plan for advancing our Career and Technical Education programs. One of the items we’ll look at is a system that will permit students to earn an associate’s degree with their high school diploma. This will allow them, if they choose, to enter the workforce immediately after graduation.
Finally, we need to address our growing prison population and the skyrocketing costs associated with it.
To accomplish this task, we must treat the addictions that drives so much of our crime and help people put their lives back on track. Right now, North Dakota’s correctional system is at capacity and significant growth is forecasted over the next decade. If we don’t do anything, we’ll need to put more state money into keeping up with the growth by building more jails and prisons rather than investing in crime and recidivism reduction strategies.
Don’t get me wrong, we still need to lock up the bad guys, but we can do a better job helping non-violent offenders that suffer from addiction problems and mental health issues. They need effective treatment more than they need time in prison. We need to focus our prison space on violent and career criminals while helping those in need through active and effective addiction and substance abuse treatment. This is simply the right thing to do.
It’s been my honor to serve as your attorney general. I’ve dedicated my life to serving the people of North Dakota and have worked hard to earn your trust every day, always staying positive and optimistic while meeting our challenges head on. We have much to do in the years ahead, and I’m looking forward to working with citizens all across our great state to build an even better North Dakota.