Wayne Stenehjem: North Dakota Is Doing Just Fine

north dakota

In 1990, production agriculture made up the largest share of our state’s $11.5 billion economy. Thankfully, Republican leaders such as Gov. Ed Schafer and most of us in the Legislature saw the need to not only grow but also diversify our economy.

Our state’s economic renaissance hit full speed when Gov. John Hoeven focused our economic development on value-added ag, technology-based companies, advanced manufacturing, tourism and energy. And Gov. Jack Dalrymple made sure our state was positioned to succeed with major public infrastructure investments.

What has happened as a result has been nothing short of amazing.

By 2014, the state’s economy was estimated to have grown to $55 billion. And while production agriculture still plays the major role, North Dakota’s economy has a breadth of diversity that few could have imagined just 20 years ago.

We are a world leader in energy development and unmanned aircraft systems technology. Our universities are at the forefront of research and technological innovation. Our business leaders have built refineries, fertilizer plants, manufacturing plants and tech companies.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]To be sure, any reports of our state’s economic demise are greatly exaggerated and fail to include the fact that this downturn comes on the heels of years of remarkable growth.[/mks_pullquote]

The list is endless, and the result has been thousands of new good jobs and a growing population.

While North Dakota currently is taking a hit from low commodity prices, our state’s economy still is estimated at $53 billion for 2015 … the second best year in our state’s history.

Our unemployment still is the lowest in the country at 2.7 percent. Our state tax revenues for the current biennium are projected to be the third highest ever, and by a wide margin.

To be sure, any reports of our state’s economic demise are greatly exaggerated and fail to include the fact that this downturn comes on the heels of years of remarkable growth.

Obviously, our state has challenges as a result of low ag and oil prices, but we are well prepared to deal with these challenges. This is no accident. Thanks to the forethought of the Republican Legislature, we have ample budget reserves set aside. Those reserves, coupled with a 4 percent budget cut, will balance our budget.

And while 4 percent may seem like a lot, let’s not forget that our state general fund budget has grown from $4 billion to $6 billion in four short years.

We also are well positioned to deal with the state budget in the coming years. We have a diverse economy and a strong job market. Much of our current budget growth has come from prudent one-time expenditures, which do not need to be repeated. We still have billions of dollars in reserves and special funds.

Without question, our state will have the resources we need to invest in our priorities and balance the budget without a tax increase. In fact, I believe the current budget retooling will help our state government remain healthy and fiscally strong for years to come.

So how did we get here? Simple: We have created a state where businesses can thrive and create good-paying jobs and opportunity for our citizens.

We have created a world-class economy through sound regulatory and taxation policies. We have unleashed the power of our people. And with a strong economy, we have the resources state government needs to educate our students, care for our most vulnerable, invest in necessary public infrastructure and keep taxes low.

As attorney general and a member of the North Dakota Industrial Commission, I have long fought for our free enterprise system. I believe the role of government is to let people prosper. Government should foster an environment where businesses can flourish and create good-paying jobs. Yes, we need common-sense regulation, but the great power of our nation is the free enterprise system.

As governor, I will continue to fight to protect our state’s key industries, grow and diversify our economy by empowering our people and keep North Dakota a great place to live, work and do business.

Wayne Stenehjem has been Attorney General for the State of North Dakota since 2000. He is currently seeking the NDGOP's gubernatorial nomination for 2016.

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