Governor Jack Dalrymple said today in his address during the special session of the Legislative Assembly that North Dakota continues on a path of unparalleled economic growth. Dalrymple told legislators that North Dakota's economic growth comes with challenges that must be addressed during the special session.
Dalrymple highlighted the state's strong financial position, telling legislators that the state is exceeding revenue forecasts from April, when the Legislature last met.
North Dakota's personal income is growing at a rate that is more than double the national average and the state is benefiting from the nation's lowest unemployment rate, with more than 17,000 available jobs in business sectors throughout the state. Because of North Dakota's strong economy and careful fiscal management, the state can invest in critical infrastructure improvements while continuing to build the state's reserves, Dalrymple said.
"We are making tremendous progress in our state, and our policies to create job opportunities are working," Dalrymple said. "With our strong economic growth come significant challenges. But these challenges will not hold us back."
Dalrymple called on legislators to address the state's challenges.
Disaster Recovery Assistance
"The most significant task before you in this special session will be to develop a disaster recovery package for all of the people in our larger cities, small towns, counties and townships where flooding has created incredible hardships," Dalrymple said. "This much-needed assistance cannot be postponed."
The Governor urged lawmakers to provide funding assistance for flood victims who have been forced from their homes and who now want to rebuild. Dalrymple also recommended they create an infrastructure grant fund to help political subdivisions, including townships, which are struggling to cover flood-related costs.
"When spring flood waters rose to historic heights and wreaked havoc in Minot and other areas of the state, we banded together to help one another and to begin the process of rebuilding homes and lives," Dalrymple said. "I am confident all of you will embrace that same spirit of unity and shared purpose during this special session to address our state's critical needs for flood recovery assistance."
Housing and Oil-Impact Needs
Dalrymple's recommendations include providing additional state funding for a tax credit program to support greater development of low-income housing in not only communities impacted by flooding, but also in the state's oil and gas counties. Dalrymple also has asked the Bank of North Dakota to enhance its loan programs for affordable housing.
Earlier this year, the Legislative Assembly appropriated $100 million in impact grant funds to help communities and other political subdivisions in western North Dakota rebuild roads and address many other impacts associated with the rapid development of the region's oil and gas industry. Still, more needs to be done to keep pace with the region's growth. Dalrymple recommended the legislature provide additional funding during the special session for oil impact grants.
"The need for grants in oil-impacted communities has proven to be much greater than anticipated and I urge you to provide additional funding without delay," Dalrymple said.
Dalrymple told legislators that he has directed the North Dakota Highway Patrol to station nine more troopers in western North Dakota as soon as they complete their training. The Governor said he also supports the Legislature authorizing funding during the special session for an additional four troopers to further enhance public safety in North Dakota's oil and gas counties.
Dalrymple also urged the Legislative Assembly to support legislation that would return to the State Board of Higher Education the authority over the University of North Dakota logo and nickname.
The special legislative session was initially set to establish new boundaries for legislative districts, but lawmakers are also expected to address flood recovery and other issues.