On The Record: The First Priorities for North Dakota’s Next Governor

It’s week one of The Minot Voice’s Governor’s candidate forum ‘On the Record’. With the state’s Democratic-NPL party without a candidate, the election for North Dakota’s Governor will take place this June on the Republican primary ballot. That means we’ve got less than four months to get to know our candidates. This week, we’ve asked each to tell us about their first priorities as Governor.

Each Thursday we’ll ask a question of our Governor candidates, the following Thursday we’ll publish their answer and ask a new question. Candidates are free to provide a written answer, a Youtube video, or a Soundcloud audio clip.

This week’s question:

If elected Governor, what’s your first priority?

Next week’s question:

Here on The Minot Voice, the argument has been made that more local beer would be a good thing. That argument leads to this week’s question: Would North Dakota’s culture, economy, and our small towns be better served by local breweries? And if so, what can we do to from a regulatory standpoint to encourage investment in this growing industry?

On the Record is a weekly series that allows you to get to know our Governor candidates side-by-side, on a single issue, in their own words. Navigate the tabs and answers by clicking or touching each candidate’s name. And when we do get a Democratic candidate, they’ll be given the opportunity to answer as well.

Mr. Rick Becker on his first priorities as Governor…

November 9th (the day after the election), I work with Governor Dalrymple to get as full assessment of his proposed 2015-2017 budget as possible. Because I will already have been working for months on my version of the budget, I will be ready to compare the two budgets, and determine how and why we differ in specific areas, as well as determine where I need to obtain more data. The next Legislature will be receiving Governor Dalrymple’s proposed budget, but they also know they will be working with me on getting that budget through. It would, therefore, be in everyone’s best interest if the legislature has a complete understanding of the type of budget I wish to see.

As far as first priority once sworn into office, I have made a promise to the people of North Dakota. In my first week as Governor, I will sign North Dakota out of Smarter Balanced, which will allow us to remove ourselves (and our students) from Common Core. The people of our state are tired of Federal government overreach, especially in education. They’ve had it with the heavy progressive mindset throughout the education system. Getting out of Common Core is just the first step.

But on the very first day in office, I will send a letter to the President of the United States, whoever that may be, congratulating him or her, but also putting them on notice that North Dakota has a Governor who takes the 10th Amendment and state sovereignty very seriously. Maybe I’ll add a smiley face at the end of that letter.

— Rick Becker

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Rick Becker for Governor

On every issue affecting North Dakota, Rick has a solution that gives people the greatest degree of choice and liberty, keeps money in the taxpayers pockets and is best for North Dakota families.

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Mr. Doug Burgum on his first priorities as Governor…

The first priority will be to reduce state government spending and re-focus on our core priorities. North Dakota recently resolved nearly 80 percent of a record $1.1 billion general fund budget shortfall by draining our $330 million ending balance and emptying the vast majority of our $575 million rainy day fund, depleting a decade of savings in an afternoon. The remaining cuts were achieved by a 4.05 percent budget cut.

State oil revenue receipts from the gross production tax and oil extraction are also falling short by another $1 billion, which compounds the budget pressures across dozens of the other dedicated funding buckets outside the general fund.

And just this week, state revenue figures for January were released, which showed tax revenues are down 21 percent versus the comparable period in the prior budgeting cycle, and revenue for the month of January alone had declined 34 percent, compared to the same prior period. Our revenue decline is accelerating, not reversing. Solving the budget situation is priority number one, and it can be solved without raising taxes on hardworking North Dakotans.

Everyone who has ever worked with me, invested with me, or partnered with me knows that I am an optimist who believes in North Dakota and believes in our future. This fundamental optimism is why I have spent my life taking risks to build global companies in North Dakota by raising capital and attracting talent that strengthen communities.

I also know, from 33 years of making payroll and creating great jobs in the private sector, that to solve any problem, a leader must first publicly acknowledge the problem exists, and then dig in to assess the problem honestly and realistically.

Solving a budget shortfall of this historic size and structural nature is not a simple belt-tightening exercise. And waiting for commodity prices to increase is not a plan; it is speculation.

This fix will require rethinking our approaches and priorities. As governor, I will work with legislators, counties, cities, mayors, students, educators, retirees, healthcare professionals, business owners, farmers, ranchers, agencies, institutions, and more to drive a ground-up approach to innovation. By empowering smart, committed, hardworking, and passionate North Dakotans from all corners, we will accomplish much more than balancing the budget. Together we will begin the journey of making North Dakota the most exceptional state in the nation.

Global economic and technological forces are changing the world order, and they affecting every industry in North Dakota. It’s time for new and fresh ideas. It’s time for bold thinking. It’s time for a reinvention. I will bring all that – and more – to my first day, and every day, as governor of the great state of North Dakota.

— Doug Burgum

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Doug Burgum for North Dakota

With your help, we can continue to diversify our state’s economy, create long lasting jobs, and generate opportunities for our citizens to flourish and succeed in North Dakota.

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Mr. Wayne Stenehjem on his first priorities as Governor…

If elected governor, my first priority in the short term will be to get to work on preparing our state budget before the coming legislative session. As a legislator and a statewide elected official, I have dealt with state budgets when times were flush and when they were lean. And, thanks to our Republican legislators, North Dakota is well positioned to deal with the short-term challenges low commodity prices have created. As we’ve recently seen, the allotment process of making across-the-board cuts are an effective remedy in the short term, but we must also be thorough in our budgeting process making strategic improvements where possible.

During the next legislative session, we will need to focus on our priorities like K-12 education, tax relief and infrastructure spending. We will also need to make smart decisions on reducing other spending for one-time and ongoing expenses. In doing so, we can and will balance our budget without raising taxes. Just as North Dakota businesses do, just as North Dakota families do, we must tighten our belts, balance our budget, and put money away where we can.

But cutting the budget is not enough. Long term, as governor, my top priority is to continue to grow and diversify our economy. We need to further improve our state’s business climate with smart regulation, workforce development, and pro-growth tax policies. We must build on our state’s success in energy and agriculture. We must diversify our economy with new value-added energy, technology, and advanced manufacturing jobs. In doing so, we will continue to foster the quality of life and opportunities North Dakota’s families deserve.

I have spent my career fighting 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. With common sense regulation and a pro-business tax environment, we can unleash the power of a free enterprise system. As governor, my top priority will be to continue to fight to protect our state’s key industries, to grow and diversify our economy by empowering our people, and keep North Dakota a great place to live, work and do business.

— Wayne Stenehjem

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Stenehjem for Governor

I’ll use the experience I gained in my years in the legislature to continue to work hard for ND as your governor.

Josh Wolsky

Editor and Publisher of TheMinotVoice, Developer of the #ForMinot Network,  Co-Host of #GoodTalk Minot, Advocate and Friend of the Souris River, Former City Alderman, and clearly -- all things #MakeMinot. Go ahead, don't wait for permission!

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