Gov. Doug Burgum today delivered his State of the State address to a special session of the 67th Legislative Assembly, calling for an investment of federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars and the state’s excess ending fund balance into infrastructure, tax relief, workforce, economic development, and other priorities to move North Dakota forward.
“By investing right now, right here in North Dakota, we can diversify the economy, we can enhance government services, and we can avoid inflation, be competitive and create long-term cost savings for citizens – all without raising taxes,” Burgum said, kicking off the special legislative session in the House chamber of the Capitol. “But we must invest strategically. That means one-time expenditures that don’t grow government. It means providing long-term value, efficiency, and cost savings for taxpayers. And it means ensuring a high return-on-investment and leveraging private dollars to maximize the impact of public funds.”
Burgum signed an executive order on Oct. 29 convening a special session of the Legislature on Nov. 8 to address legislative redistricting, statewide infrastructure and capital projects, natural gas infrastructure, statewide workforce programs, economic development opportunities, income tax relief, and road, water, and deferred maintenance needs.
Most of the investments are proposed from the state’s ARPA funds. North Dakota received just over $1 billion in ARPA State Fiscal Recovery funds and $113 million in ARPA Coronavirus Capital Projects funds, for a total of $1.12 billion in ARPA funds designated for distribution by the state. About $423 million of that amount already has been appropriated by the Legislature last spring for transportation infrastructure and capital projects.
The state also ended the 2019-21 budget cycle with a general fund ending balance that was $412 million more than what the Legislature obligated for the current 2021-23 budget. Today, Burgum repeated his call for the Legislature to use approximately half of those excess funds, or $207 million, to provide individuals with an income tax credit of up to $500 per year, per return, for the 2021 and 2022 tax returns.
“Providing tax relief now for the 2021 and 2022 calendar years – putting money back into the hands of our citizens – is real tax relief, and it’s responsive,” Burgum said. “We can afford to do it, and we should want to do it. The hardworking taxpayers of North Dakota certainly deserve it.”
Burgum noted the state’s reserves are healthy, with the rainy-day Budget Stabilization Fund at its legislatively set maximum of $749 million, a record high. The Office of Management and Budget also is projecting a nearly $600 million unobligated balance in the Strategic Investment and Improvements Fund and an unobligated general fund balance of $540 million by the end of the biennium. Burgum said the state’s financial condition “presents a golden opportunity to invest in our future and provide tax relief and future savings to our citizens.”
The governor released his Accelerate ND plan on Sept. 30 with broad input from the private and public sectors, delivering a solid starting point for the ARPA investment process. Burgum today thanked legislative leaders for their collaboration through the process and also thanked the interim appropriations committees for advancing high return-on-investment opportunities, noting the strong alignment between the appropriations bills and the Accelerate ND plan.
For more on the infrastructure, workforce, economic development, and other proposals highlighted by the governor today, including roads and bridges, career academies, and extending natural gas service, read the full address here and view the slide presentation here.