Dakota Download Governor Burgum's Weekly Update - October 3, 2021

Burgum unveils Accelerate ND plan with strategic investment of federal funds, tax relief for citizens

Proposal to Legislature supports workforce, economic development, infrastructure; provides income tax relief and long-term cost savings

Gov. Doug Burgum on Thursday unveiled his “Accelerate ND” plan containing his executive recommendations to the state Legislature for strategically investing federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). As part of the plan, the governor also proposed using a portion of the state’s near-record ending fund balance from the 2019-21 budget to provide an estimated $207 million of income tax relief over two years, support economic development and provide long-term cost savings to North Dakota taxpayers, all without raising taxes.

Burgum announced the plan with Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford and State Budget Director Joe Morrissette during a press conference at the State Capitol.

“With the Accelerate ND plan, we have an unprecedented opportunity to move North Dakota forward right now by making one-time investments that will grow and diversify our economy, make our state more competitive, improve the efficiency of government services, provide tax relief and create long-term cost savings for the citizens of North Dakota,” Burgum said. “Thanks to our conservative fiscal management, we can accomplish these goals without growing government and provide a high return on investment for taxpayers."

Approved by Congress in March 2021, the American Rescue Plan Act allocated a total of $3.2 billion to North Dakota. Approximately $1.85 billion was dedicated to economic impact payments to individuals and program grants to specific entities, while $242 million is going directly to cities and counties.

The State of North Dakota received the remainder of the funds in the form of $1.008 billion in ARPA State Fiscal Relief 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.

However, Burgum noted that $423 million of that $1.12 billion, or 38%, already has been appropriated: The Legislature last spring authorized $317 million for transportation infrastructure and $106 million for capital projects if federal funding could be identified and if the projects fell within the allowable uses under federal guidelines. Burgum is recommending the Legislature reauthorize those appropriations.

With the remaining $697 million in unappropriated ARPA funds, the governor is recommending investments in in three core areas:

  • $326 million for workforce and economic development.
  • $237 million for infrastructure and capital improvements.
  • $134 million for emergency response, health care and citizen service efficiency.

When looking at the entire $1.12 billion, including the items already appropriated by the Legislature, the Accelerate ND plan calls for investing a total of:

  • $396 million in workforce and economic development.
  • $590 million in infrastructure and capital improvements.
  • $134 million in emergency response, health care and citizen service efficiency.

Burgum said investing ARPA dollars now will help address immediate needs, avoid inflation and rising construction costs – allowing contracts to be bid this winter for the 2022 construction season – and help North Dakota stay competitive with other states deploying their ARPA dollars for infrastructure and to address workforce shortages.

The governor noted North Dakota is in a strong financial position. The state’s rainy-day fund, the Budget Stabilization Fund, is now filled to its maximum level, a record-high $749 million; the Strategic Investment and Improvements Fund has an unobligated balance of $567 million; and the 2019-21 biennium ended June 30 with a near-record general fund balance of $1.12 billion, exceeding what the Legislature obligated for the 2021-23 budget by $412 million.

In addition to addressing ARPA funds, the Accelerate ND plan recommends a three-pronged approach to investing the excess general fund balance, targeting the money at income tax relief for resident taxpayers ($207 million), economic development ($100 million) and shoring up the state’s pension fund ($100 million) to reduce long-term costs to taxpayers.

Burgum said he will continue working with legislative leaders on plans for a special session to address the ARPA funds and excess ending fund balance. Legislators have tentatively targeted the week of Nov. 8 for a special session to address redistricting.

2021 Main Street ND Summit agenda now available

The 2021 Main Street ND Summit scheduled for Oct. 12 and pre-summit event on Oct. 11 will provide an in-depth and interactive learning experience centered around infrastructure, while also providing a one-of-a-kind networking opportunity for those attending.

This year’s theme, “Smart, Efficient Infrastructure,” will provide insight into both the physical elements of infrastructure and the critical need to grow a next-generation community with economic development, workforce and leadership development.

The full agenda is now available. Among the featured keynote speakers:

  • Charles Marohn, known as one of the 10 Most Influential Urbanists of All Time, is the founder and president of Strong Towns. As a professional engineer with decades of experience, Marohn has presented Strong Towns’ concepts in hundreds of cities and towns across North America.
  • Tristan Cleveland, a community designer, researcher and urban columnist, is the leader of the Healthy Communities research and planning with The Happy City Experiment. Cleveland has led projects with national and municipal governments in Canada and United Arab Emirates to help operationalize health research into design and policy.
  • Joe Minicozzi of Urban3 is a planner who imagines new way to think about and visualize land use for urban design and economics. Urban3's work establishes new conversations across multiple professional sectors, policy makers and the public to creatively address the challenges of urbanization. Urban3’s extensive studies range geographically over 30 states, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

In addition to the keynote speakers, the summit will also provide six breakout sessions with topics including transportation, real estate, community development, sustainable community growth and more.

Bret Dockter of Harvey named 2022 North Dakota Teacher of the Year

Gov. Burgum and State School Superintendent Kirsten Baesler announced that Bret Dockter, a sixth-grade teacher at B.M. Hanson Elementary School in Harvey, has been named North Dakota’s 2022 Teacher of the Year.

Dockter was one of four finalists for the honor, which is presented each year. They were celebrated Monday at a ceremony in the state Capitol’s Memorial Hall. The other three finalists were Heather Ell, a first-grade teacher at John Hoeven Elementary School in Minot; Shari Jerde, a teacher of business education and family and consumer sciences at Grand Forks’ Community High School; and Matthew Nielson, a science teacher at Valley City Junior/Senior High School. All attended Monday’s celebration.

Dockter, 46, teaches social studies, science and mathematics at Hanson, and coaches Harvey High School’s football team. He has been an educator for 23 years, including 11 in his current position. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Minot State University and a master’s from North Dakota State University.

In accepting the award, Dockter praised his colleagues, his students, his wife and family, and the community of Harvey, which he described as an ideal place to teach and raise a family.

“The reason that I think we’re all here is our students,” Dockter said. “It is such a joy to see how, each year, the class comes together. This recognition is really not as much about me, as it is the kids in my classroom.”

Gov. Burgum praised Dockter’s “commitment to service to these kids, and his caring and passion.”

Dockter “understands that students learn better and are more successful when they see themselves as part of something larger, as members of a team or project team,” the governor said. “He encourages students to apply what they learn in the classroom in their lives outside of school, and he encourages relationship building in his community.”

Dockter will be North Dakota’s candidate for the national 2022 Teacher of the Year award, a program that is managed by the Council for Chief State School Officers, a Washington, D.C., organization that represents state education interests.

Burgum meets with Public Service Commission to discuss North Dakota's energy future

Gov. Burgum met Wednesday with the North Dakota Public Service Commission to discuss the state's all-of-the-above energy portfolio, grid reliability and the huge potential for carbon capture, storage and utilization in North Dakota.

The meeting with Commissioners Julie Fedorchak, Randy Christmann and Brian Kroshus, believed to be the first time a sitting governor has appeared before the full PSC at their invitation, also involved discussion about the governor's challenge for North Dakota to become a carbon-neutral state by 2030.

Burgum expressed his gratitude for the commissioners' service to North Dakota citizens and their important role in providing a stable regulatory environment that allows for responsible development of North Dakota's abundant energy resources.

Gov. Burgum poses for a picture with Public Service Commissioners (from left) Randy Christmann, Julie Fedorchak and Brian Kroshus.
Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford holds the Lignite Public Service Award next to Lignite Energy Council President and CEO Jason Bohrer during the council's fall conference Wednesday at the Bismarck Event Center.

Sanford receives Lignite Public Service Award, Burgum addresses Lignite Energy Council's fall conference

Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford on Wednesday received the Lignite Public Service Award from the Lignite Energy Council during its annual fall conference on Wednesday at the Bismarck Event Center.

Sanford, who also participated in a panel discussion at the conference, was presented with the award for his work to support lignite coal as a viable and economically competitive energy source in North Dakota and beyond. Sanford spearheaded the administration's efforts to facilitate the sale of Coal Creek Station to stop the coal-fired plant from being retired.

Gov. Burgum also addressed the fall conference, speaking about the importance of lignite coal as a source of reliable baseload power and a key component of North Dakota's all-of-the-above energy policy.

Burgum signed several bills during this year’s legislative session that will support the lignite industry as it continues to innovate for the future and supply reliable, low-cost electricity for residents and businesses in North Dakota and beyond. Those bills included:

  • House Bill 1412, which exempts coal plants from the state’s coal conversion facility tax for the next five years. The bill is expected to save the industry over $20 million per year, freeing up funds to invest in innovative projects such as carbon capture and sequestration that will curb emissions and improve the industry’s long-term viability.
  • Senate Bill 2152, which provides a sales tax exemption for carbon dioxide used for secure geologic storage.
  • SB 2206, which allows utilities to recover costs for carbon capture.

Burgum stressed the need to educate the rest of the country that the United States won't have stable, low-priced, reliable electricity if it keeps implementing policies that attack baseload generation.

"We've got to protect our baseload, which means right now we've got to protect the lignite industry in North Dakota," Burgum said, advocating for investing in clean-coal technology such as Project Tundra as well as carbon capture projects. "We win when we all work together, and we've got an incredible future going forward."

Register today for Recovery Reinvented on Oct. 25

Gov. Burgum and First Lady Kathryn Burgum are inviting the general public to join them for Recovery Reinvented on Oct. 25 at the Bismarck Event Center. The event will be free and open to the public. A robust, online experience will also be available to all.

The daylong event will feature state and national addiction and recovery experts who will focus on reinventing recovery through:

  • Sharing of stories.
  • Creating recovery-friendly cultures in the workplace and community.
  • Eliminating the stigma surrounding the disease of addiction.

This year’s event will create more opportunities for the public to get involved in shaping and participating in the event, including:

  • Submitting nominations for the Recovery Champion awards, which honor local individuals and groups that are making an impact in the field of addiction and recovery.
  • Musicians and artists contributing their talents through recovery-inspired performances.
  • Volunteering at the event.
  • Addiction and recovery-related nonprofit organizations and service providers participating in the Recovery Resources Expo, which will connect people to extensive addiction, recovery, and mental health organizations and resources from across the state.

The Behavioral Health Conference will be held the following days on Oct. 26-28 also at the Bismarck Event Center.

Team ND is working as one to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) and other state agencies continue to work to slow the spread of COVID-19 in North Dakota and administer safe and effective vaccines. In partnership with federal, local and tribal partners, Team ND has tackled this pandemic through a whole-of-government, whole-of-community approach.

  • For the most up-to-date COVID-19 information, see the NDDoH website.
  • NDResponse.gov is your one-stop site for the latest news, as well as state and federal resources for COVID-19.