BISMARCK-Citing sluggish revenue, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum called for steeper budget cuts than his predecessor Monday, Jan. 16.
Burgum, who presented his recommendations to legislative leaders Monday, called for a $13.3 billion total budget in the 2017-19 cycle, about $168 million less than what former Gov. Jack Dalrymple proposed last month in his final executive budget. Burgum proposed $4.62 billion in general fund spending, about $159 million less than the former governor's recommendation.
Burgum's office released the recommendations in a news release at 5 p.m. Monday, a state holiday and the eighth day of the 2017 legislative session. Lawmakers convened at the state Capitol earlier this month under a cloud of falling tax revenues on reduced oil and farm commodity prices.
Burgum, a Republican who was elected to his first term in November, said in a statement that Dalrymple's budget was a good start.
"Unfortunately, revenues continue to fall short of projections, already lagging more than $15 million behind November's revised forecast," he said. "My budget proposal reflects this reality while prioritizing K-12 education and support for our state's most vulnerable people."
The budget calls for an additional 5 percent, $31 million cut to higher education and an extra $19 million in reductions to state agencies. That would mean eliminating about 633 full-time positions, 50 more than what Dalrymple suggested.
In the second year of the biennium, the Burgum budget would eliminate a 1 percent salary increase for state and campus employees that Dalrymple had proposed. It would require state employees to pay 5 percent of their health insurance premiums, creating $11 million in savings.
"These measures, while difficult in the short term, will position our state for long-term success with a leaner budget that is more adaptable to volatile swings in commodity prices," Burgum said in a statement.
Burgum's budget projects oil prices of $48 per barrel, which is more conservative than the previous governor's recommendations. It assumes $337 million less in oil tax revenue.
The budget also calls for continued funding for Medicaid expansion, a key provision of the Affordable Care Act.
In his first State of the State address Jan. 3, Burgum said spending was the "root culprit" in the state's budget woes.
"My leadership team is confident there are many ways we can make government leaner and more efficient so we can better serve the citizens of North Dakota," Burgum said during his speech to lawmakers.
The speech left some legislators wanting more specifics on Burgum's ideas for the budget. Republican leaders from both chambers said Monday night they will continue to study the new governor's proposals.
"We took some of his thoughts that he put out and we said we would respond to them after we've had a chance to meet and talk about them," said House Majority Leader Al Carlson, R-Fargo.
Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson, said there were "some good things in there."
House Minority Leader Corey Mock, D-Grand Forks, raised concerns over public employee compensation and university budgets. He said there "needs to be a dialogue" on employee benefits.
"If he's going to make a significant change ... we're going to want to have a larger conversation," Mock said.