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North Dakota budget, Dalrymple
Looking up at the North Dakota State Capitol building in Bismarck. (Image: Timothy Vogel via Flickr)

Dalrymple to decide how to deal with depressed budget

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple is slated to decide Wednesday whether to call a special session of the Legislature to address the state’s ailing treasury in the wake of depressed oil and farm commodity prices.

The Republican governor announced Tuesday in a statement that he would “outline options to resolve the shortfall” at a news conference Wednesday afternoon at the state Capitol.

The Legislature’s majority Republican leadership and state agency directors met with Dalrymple on Monday to decide how to deal with a dramatic drop in North Dakota tax collections spurred by largely by slumping agricultural commodity prices and a drop in oil activity — both key contributors to the state’s wealth.

House Majority Leader Al Carlson, R-Fargo, and his Senate counterpart, Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson, said they could not say whether the governor would call a special session, which would cost taxpayers about $80,000 daily, or order further across-the board cuts of state agencies, a move that would not require action by lawmakers.

“We talked about a lot of things and we gave him some option and he’s going to weigh them out,” Carlson said.

Carlson and Wardner said options included additional cuts, further raiding the state’s savings and taking more money from the state-owned Bank of North Dakota and the state Mill and Elevator in Grand Forks, both of which have seen record profits in recent years.

“In our meeting, I felt good about what we will probably be doing,” said Wardner, who would not elaborate.

State Budget Director Pam Sharp said tax collections are already down about $100 million since the governor ordered state agencies on Feb. 1 to immediately cut budgets by 4.05 percent to make up for more than $1.1 billion in shortfalls. The cuts are estimated to save the state about $245 million through the two-year spending cycle.

The governor also took more than $497 million from the state’s Budget Stabilization Fund, leaving only about $75 million in the surplus stash of cash that has been built up over the past decade largely from past oil bounty.

Dalrymple in May also ordered most agencies to cut their budget by 10 percent for the next two-year budget cycle, which begins July 1, 2017.

An advisory group of North Dakota lawmakers, state officials and business leaders last week recommended much lower projections for oil prices and production when crafting state spending plans.

A new state revenue new forecast by the economic consultancy Moody’s Analytics was still being crafted Tuesday but would be completed before Dalrymple makes his announcement, Sharp said.


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