The Honorable Jack Dalrymple Governor of North Dakota
Lt. Governor Drew Wrigley, distinguished legislators, Justices of the Supreme Court, elected officials, tribal leaders, First Lady Betsy, Kathleen Wrigley, our military personnel and fellow citizens of North Dakota -- welcome and thank you for being here today.
It is an honor and a privilege for me to address this joint session of the 63rd Legislative Assembly. This is the 15th time I have attended the delivery of the state of the state address and yes, I still have participated more times as a member of the legislative branch than I have as a member of the executive branch. But the tally is getting very close. Once again I look forward to continuing our work together this winter, in a spirit of true cooperation. North Dakota can continue to be a shining example to the nation of the great things that can be achieved in an atmosphere of true civility.
More and more the rest of the nation is looking to North Dakota with much curiosity. The national media contacts my office nearly every week asking the same question: "What are you guys doing out there anyhow?" I explain to them about our record of job creation and smart budgeting. But then they ask, "Isn't it all about the oil?" and I enjoy explaining to them that our unemployment rate, which is the lowest in the nation at 2.8 percent, is very low throughout the state including the Red River Valley which is about 260 miles from the nearest oil well. All of this leaves the national press even more curious about how we do things in North Dakota. When our Tourism Division adopted the nickname, "Legendary," ten years ago, I think they meant to invoke the images of Custer and Teddy Roosevelt. Now it's taking on a whole new meaning around the country. And we added to it on Saturday when the NDSU Bison won back-to-back National Football Championships.
Our great progress is allowing North Dakotans to stay close to home and it's attracting people from other states. We're now a state of 700,000 people, our highest population in the history of our state. Since 2000, we've added more than 60,000 new jobs while much of the nation has lost jobs, and our per-capita income has grown faster than any other state, moving us up from 38th place in 2000 to 7th place today.
What is the state of the state? Today we as a people are at an incredible moment in our state's history, and we are ready to write the next great chapter.
My remarks today will be presented around two main themes: the first theme is "Keep what's working" and the second theme is "Where do we go from here?"
For the last 12 years our successful strategies for job growth and economic development have begun with creating a positive business climate. That means a focus on low taxes, a reasonable regulatory climate, and the most responsive state government anywhere. In state government itself, we have found a model that has stood the test of time, which is to: fund our priorities responsibly; build strong reserves for the future; and provide tax relief whenever possible.
Let's review briefly some of the specific achievements of the last two years. In energy we continue to see our growth targets realized. We have seen amazing growth in crude oil production, increasing from 460,000 barrels per day when I spoke to you two years ago, to 747,000 barrels per day currently. Two years ago pipelines and rail capacity were major barriers to growth in oil and gas production. Since 2010 we have more than doubled our pipeline and rail capacity from less than 500,000 barrels of oil per day to one million barrels. Not only is that good for the industry but it also gets trucks off our roads.
Our production of natural gas has also more than doubled from two years ago. We have encouraged the gathering of natural gas and have also doubled processing capacity since the end of 2010. By 2014 we expect to have capacity to process 1.36 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day. We are also promoting the use of natural gas at the well site instead of diesel fuel, and today we are seeing a leveling off of the percentage of natural gas that is being flared.
In the agriculture industry, we have worked with CHS Inc., formerly Cenex-Harvest States, to utilize some of our natural gas and convert it into nitrogen fertilizer for our farmers. This is truly a win-win situation for our state. Carl Casale, the president and CEO and other members of the CHS management team, were here in the Capitol recently to announce that they are proceeding with the first stage of a $1.3 billion construction project at Spiritwood. They tell me that the plant will produce 2,200 tons of ammonia fertilizer every day and employ between 100 and 150 people. Mark Palmquist, the executive vice president and chief operating officer of CHS Ag Business, is here with us today-- let's give him and CHS a round of applause. Mark, thanks to you and all of your cooperative members for your continued investment in North Dakota.
Tourism had another outstanding year in 2012, with visits to our parks and other major attractions all showing significant increases. Visitors spent more than $2.5 billion in North Dakota last year continuing the upward trend of the last several years. Part of this success is due to our outstanding marketing efforts, but part of it is due to individual entrepreneurs who work hard every day to create a legendary tourist experience.
Jeremy Doan has spent the past 13 years developing the Black Leg Ranch near McKenzie into a premium tourist destination. Black Leg Ranch was established before statehood and five generations of the Doan Family have operated a working cattle ranch since 1882. But Jeremy and his brother, Jay, have greatly diversified the family business to include a very successful agri-tourism venture. Visitors are coming from all over the country and the world to experience ranch life, great hunting and fishing, and North Dakota hospitality.
Advanced manufacturing has taken a great leap forward in the last two years. Deere and Caterpillar are building new factories in Valley City and West Fargo, and our own entrepreneurs continue to create more jobs in manufacturing and many other industries.
Deb Anderson, president of Summers Manufacturing in Devils Lake, epitomizes the entrepreneurial spirit that is driving our success. Summers Manufacturing, an industry leader in the production of cultivators, sprayers and other agriculture equipment, has come a long way since it was established in a blacksmith shop more than 40 years ago.
Summers has expanded to include two manufacturing plants in Devils Lake and Maddock with more than 235,000 square feet of production and warehouse space. The company is owned by its 233 employees and they are always looking to expand and diversify their product line for their domestic and global customers.
Under Deb's leadership, Summers Manufacturing earned North Dakota's Exporter of the Year Award in 2008, after the company increased its export sales by 50 percent. Next month, Deb will be in Washington, D.C., where the Manufacturing Institute will hold an awards luncheon to recognize her and other women from across the country for their outstanding contributions to the nation's manufacturing sector. Deb, would you please stand for a moment? Deb, thank you for supplying great equipment to our farmers and thanks especially for providing all of those good jobs.
These job-creating businesses are the reason North Dakota is number one in so many measures of economic progress. We owe a word of thanks to those who take risks, create jobs, and retain their employees through thick and thin. Their commitment is the reason North Dakota is credited by MoneyRates.com with being, quote, "the best place in America for young people," and a national ranking that I especially enjoy from 24/7 Wall St. which found that North Dakota is quote, "the best-run state in America."
As your newly elected Governor, I would like to now talk about where we are going next. With the blessings of rapid economic growth come many challenges - challenges from growth that far exceed what any city or county would normally encounter. As a state we must continue to meet these challenges head-on. Dealing with these challenges effectively and efficiently must be an integral part of our vision for the future of North Dakota.
In the area of law enforcement we have moved 13 additional state troopers to oil country in the current biennium. But we need to do more to support the county sheriffs, the police chiefs, and the state's attorneys in rapid growth areas. That is why I have recommended 15 additional troopers for the North Dakota Highway Patrol, and I've supported increased budgets for the courts and the parole and probation programs. But the greatest assistance we can provide to counties and cities in western North Dakota is to let them keep a larger share of the oil revenues and help them financially as they increase the number of sheriff's deputies and police officers in their communities. Having strong local law enforcement is what will give people peace of mind, and insure that we remain one of the safest states in the nation.
Enforcing our health and environmental rules is another important element in public safety. We must once again increase our efforts in the monitoring of our water supplies and waste water treatment by insuring that we have adequate staffing in our state Health Department. The pace of activity in the oil field has increased this demand significantly. It also calls for strong enforcement by our Oil and Gas Division personnel for compliance with our state's laws and rules regarding oil drilling. These initiatives should not be viewed as simply growth in state government, but rather a necessary response to the increased activity, especially in western North Dakota.
Another great challenge facing our state is the supply of housing. At the Governor's Housing Summit we presented the findings of our statewide housing survey. Recent data shows that more than 16,000 housing units have been built or started in just the last two years. That is an impressive amount of new housing, but the demand for all types of housing in some communities is rising faster than builders can complete their projects. Every month more builders and contractors are registering their businesses in North Dakota with the Secretary of State. We will catch up to the demand before long, but for the moment many employers, including the state itself, are having to use their best ingenuity to find housing for their employees.
We are currently providing a strong incentive for builders through the Bank of North Dakota's FlexPace program, providing loans to contractors and developers to build mainstream housing with interest rates as low as one percent. Builders are responding vigorously to this incentive, and therefore we have recommended in our budget that we quadruple the amount of money available through FlexPace.
More housing is on its way, but high rents have caused the greatest challenge for people in the low to moderate income category. To meet this challenge we are currently making direct investments in low income housing through our new Housing Incentive Fund administered by our own Housing Finance Agency. These housing projects are popping up throughout North Dakota and have rents that are capped by long-term agreements with the developers. Single bedroom units have become available in the $300-$400 range.
Two years ago we challenged the taxpayers of North Dakota to invest $15 million in our Housing Incentive Fund in exchange for state income tax credits. Today I am pleased to report that we have received the maximum allowable investment of $15 million in our Housing Incentive Fund. This will result in the construction in this biennium of 739 housing units valued at $104 million. These projects will greatly benefit 16 communities across the state. Despite this good progress, the need for affordable housing is so great that we recommend increasing the Housing Incentive Fund in the coming two years to $50 million.
There is one organization that has been the clear leader in coordinating low income housing projects in which our fund can invest. Lutheran Social Services deserves our full gratitude for putting together projects across the state that make a real difference in people's lives. With us today are Robert Sanderson, CEO of Lutheran Social Services, and Jessica Thomasson, Director of Housing. As you have said, housing is much more than just walls and ceilings. It's key to community stability and our quality of life. Bob and Jessica, please stand and be recognized. Thank you, Bob and Jessica, and you can get ready for more projects.
Another challenge created by rapid growth is the maintenance and improvement of our roads and highways. These one-time infrastructure investments are the best use of our reserve funds because they will pay back to all of us for decades to come. Being able to move our products, people and services from place to place is at the very core of a thriving economy. But it's not just about industry and commercial development. Providing a safe and convenient road system to every corner of the state is a basic necessity for people living in a rural state.
To put our commitment in perspective, we increased the Department of Transportation budget by more than $500 million in the current biennium for critical road and highway improvements. For the 2013-2015 biennium we need another increase of more than $1 billion for state highways, county road systems, township roads, bridges, interchanges, and other North Dakota, infrastructure improvements across the state. This funding increase would bring the Department of Transportation's total budget to $2.7 billion. The level of activity in our state demands that we keep up with these long-term investments.
We have made huge investments to address those and other challenges like emergency services, municipal services, and infrastructure for rapid housing development. Some will ask if we are letting spending get out of control. I believe many people have been watching our national budget crisis with great concern, and they naturally are worried that the same situation could develop at the state level. It has not and it will not happen in North Dakota because we are committed to a structural balance in our state budget, where ongoing spending for established programs never exceeds the ongoing revenues available for spending. Surplus funds have accumulated because our receipts have far exceeded our original forecasts, but we must resist the temptation to incorporate these funds into our baseline spending for ongoing programs. There are higher risks associated with any economy that is heavily dependent on the value of raw commodities and those risks must be carefully considered. In the end I expect the Legislative Assembly will find that we can fund all of our priorities, build substantial financial reserves, and lower taxes as well.
I know there will be a great deal of discussion in this legislative session about how much we invest in each area of our priorities. But it's safe to say everyone's priority list will include education. Educating and training our citizens is the key to lasting prosperity.
We have a great opportunity during this legislative session to build on our accomplishments in reforming the way we fund K-12 education. In 2007, we laid to rest the issue of equity in school funding and in 2009 and 2011 we addressed the issue of funding adequacy by increasing the state's funding commitment to the long-sought goal of 70 percent of total costs.
Now, we can achieve a fully integrated formula for K-12 funding. This formula will continue the strong financial commitment to educating each North Dakota student regardless of where they live or how property poor their school district happens to be. This funding model is sustainable far into the future, and insures that there is sufficient funding for every student in the state. But any school district that decides they need to levy more mills, for any reason, will be able as always to ask their electors for more authority. A vote of the people is always the final word.
Perhaps the best feature of this integrated formula is that it ends the excessive dependence on local property tax which has become a heavy burden on our people.
When we began our tax relief effort in 2007, the average statewide education mill levy was 190 mills. Under the proposed plan for permanent property tax reform, the average mill levy will be approximately 60 mills. That reduction in taxation will result in savings to our tax payers next biennium of about $800 million.
We should be proud of our school systems which still produce a number one ranking for eighth grade math and science scores and a high school graduation rate that is ranked second in the nation. We have thousands of dedicated teachers and school administrators who work hard to help our children develop into well-rounded, productive people. Their dedication has brought our state to where it is today.
For nearly 38 years, Wayne Sanstead has been a shining example of individuals who believe that education is the key to the success of our society. Wayne, thank you for your long and outstanding record of public service. Please stand and be recognized. Thank you, Wayne. We wish you and Mary Jane the very best in your retirement.
Our strong revenues also give us the opportunity to invest in our higher education system and to make post-secondary education more affordable. We have one of the most highly regarded systems of colleges and universities in the nation, but our progress has been overshadowed by concerns and mistrust about funding transparency and fairness.
A group of campus business managers and vice presidents of finance have developed a new model for distributing state funds to our eleven campuses. The new model funds campuses based on per-student credit hours completed. Credit hours are adjusted to reflect the added costs of certain programs and the added costs of advanced levels of study. It pays only for courses completed, and not for initial class enrollments.
Because the proposed formula is based on the actual costs of education, because it is more easily understood, and because it is more transparent, we recommend funding higher education based on this improved funding method. It will increase the credibility of our system, and lead to better support from everyone.
Student debt is also a growing concern, and we encourage the legislature to increase both the state's merit-based and needs-based scholarship programs.
We also need to insure the long-term opportunities of our college students by investing $150 million in one-time capital improvement projects throughout the university system.
Our college graduates have more opportunities in North Dakota than ever before. A study completed by Forbes this year ranks North Dakota third among all states for business and career opportunities. Our campuses are a great treasure to our state and are the key to helping our children seize the great opportunities that lie before them.
We cannot talk about the future of our state without talking about the management of our water resources. Flood control became foremost in our minds in 2011, and flood recovery took over in 2012. The state has provided hundreds of millions of dollars for home acquisitions, flood impact grants, and to fund loan programs. We built in record time a second water outlet from East Devils Lake which contributed greatly to lowering the lake three feet this year. The Fargo area, as well as Valley City and Lisbon, have made good progress acquiring homes and building flood protection for their cities. But the job of flood recovery is not done. We must stand by Ward County and the City of Minot as they finalize their plans for permanent flood protection.
Along with flood protection projects the state remains committed to providing communities with quality water supplies. Once again we need to make major investments in the Western Area Water Supply, NAWS, and the Southwest Pipeline Project as well as water supply systems in the Red River Valley. We should support the concensus plan of the Water Coalition, trust the experience and integrity of our State Water Commission, and invest the $515 million we will have available in the Resources Trust Fund. The great news for our state is that it appears that oil and gas tax revenues will make possible significant investments in water projects for years to come - investments that create jobs and improve our quality of life.
As we plan for continued flood recovery and protection, it is important that we recognize a group of individuals that has been an integral force in the state's flood fighting efforts -- the men and women of the North Dakota National Guard. They are a treasure to our state, not only for their willingness to serve here at home, but for their willingness to serve overseas in the defense of our homeland and our way of life.
Since September 11, 2001, more than 6,000 North Dakota Guardsmen have deployed to foreign lands in support of the Global War on Terrorism. All gave some, and sadly, some gave all -- heroes who courageously laid down their lives for a greater cause. Recently, we were again reminded of the extraordinary cost of freedom when two members of our North Dakota Guard were killed in Afghanistan. We will never forget Sergeant First Class Darren Linde and Specialist Tyler Orgaard for their valiant service and ultimate sacrifice.
With all of the achievements and opportunities we celebrate today, we must pause to remember those who made it possible and those who sacrificed all. A memorial of North Dakota's service members who have died since 9/11 is currently in Memorial Hall. I encourage you to visit this display called "Remembering Our Fallen" and take a few moments to honor our fallen heroes.
As we remember and honor them, we also remember and honor their families who have borne such a significant loss. They, too, have sacrificed and paid an extraordinary price in the name of freedom. Today, we are honored to have with us Adrienne Linde, wife of Sgt. 1st Class Linde and Josie Orgaard, mother of Specialist Orgaard. They are here to honor the lives and legacies of their loved ones and to represent all of the families of North Dakota's fallen heroes. Please join me as we honor them for their service and ultimate sacrifice.
Health And Human Services
Taking care of all our people is a fundamental responsibility we all share. The state must make up $93 million this biennium in reduced federal funding for Medicaid reimbursements. We must make up the loss with state funds because cutting benefits to those in need of healthcare is not an option.
At the same time, we need to support nursing homes, health care providers, and providers serving people with developmental disabilities and mental illness. Their costs of staffing and other expenses have gone up and it is very difficult for them to break even. We also must support our rural health clinics, our critical access hospitals and enhanced programs that care for our senior citizens in their homes. Taking care of our own is what we do in North Dakota.
2020 & Beyond
Our great economic progress has given us an opportunity that is rarely available to any state, and that is the opportunity to literally create our own future. A year ago we set out on a state visioning process called 2020 and Beyond. We partnered with the North Dakota Chamber of Commerce and held meetings throughout the state to hear people's own ideas about how to create a better future for our state.
First and foremost, we heard about the great need for more and better child care services throughout the state. This has become a challenge for young parents who would like to contribute more to our workforce. We are already supporting the training of child care providers, but the real challenge is expansion of child care capacity with more facilities. Most child care providers in North Dakota are home-based and have found commercial rental rates to be cost prohibitive. We have tested a cost-share program to provide permanent modular facilities capable of handling 18 children in a custom designed layout. It looks promising and led to our recommendation for a grant program that will help private child care providers get into expanded facilities with very little cost for space.
We also learned that many people would like to see enhanced amenities on their main streets or in their downtown areas. More and better restaurants, theaters, and fitness facilities were a common message. Building on the success of our Renaissance Zone program we have recommended that the Commerce Department promote the availability of planning services to towns and small cities that have not had much experience dealing with growth and expansion.
We also heard that people in North Dakota are looking for more diversity in their career opportunities. This led us to recommend a new streamlined approach to the concept of public-private joint ventures that are based on ideas coming out of our research universities. We propose calling it Research ND, leveraging our universities to partner in ventures that create interesting, high-paying jobs.
Thank you to the state chamber committee members, state legislators, and people who provided input for their great help in this important visioning process.
Our future quality of life in North Dakota must include the preservation and enhancement of our great outdoors. People want more access to hiking, hunting, fishing, camping, and other outdoor recreation. We agree that our quality of life should not be compromised because of our rapid growth. As a result we have proposed committing a portion of the funds generated by oil production taxes to a newly created conservation fund. An advisory committee made up of a diverse group of stakeholders would guide a grant program under the direction of the Industrial Commission. Grants would be awarded to benefit statewide conservation practices, wildlife habitat, parks, and outdoor recreation-all pieces of conservation, which is a core element in our North Dakota quality of life.
In my "State of the State" address today I have talked about our remarkable progress over the last 12 years, and about the challenges of growth that we must meet, and about the vision that our people have for our future. Throughout this discussion it should be clear that we have a very special opportunity now to create an incredibly bright future for all of us - a future that is safe, secure, and includes a quality of life that is unsurpassed anywhere in the world. As legislators you will be an important part of bringing about this bright future. As you undertake the important work of the session, I pledge to do all I can to make your efforts successful. Let's create our future together.
Thank you, and God bless the great state of North Dakota.