Sponsored By
An organization or individual has paid for the creation of this work but did not approve or review it.



Dalrymple's budget proposal creates some sticker shock

Gov. Jack Dalrymple's budget received praise from Republicans and Democrats, but some within Dalrymple's own party voiced concern over the proposed spending levels.

North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple

Gov. Jack Dalrymple's budget received praise from Republicans and Democrats, but some within Dalrymple's own party voiced concern over the proposed spending levels.

"I think the governor's office is not going to necessarily have a problem with the Democratic-NPL or the moderate members of the (Republican) party, but an increasing majority of the majority that is going to be resistant, just because of the dollar figures," said Senate Minority Leader Ryan Taylor, D-Towner.

Some Republicans said the level of spending was just too high.

"It had more money spent in it than I would like to see," said Senate Majority Leader Bob Stenehjem, R-Bismarck, adding that the governor's budget is usually larger than the final product that comes out of the Legislature.

"I think it's time to slow down the spending a little bit," said House Majority Leader Al Carlson, R-Fargo. "We need to remember that this election, voters clearly said they wanted responsible spending."


Legislators on both sides of the aisle praised Dalrymple's commitment to improving the infrastructure in the oil patch.

Dalrymple proposed using $371 million from the oil trust funds to go directly to roads while $100 million would be used from the Oil and Gas Impact Grant Fund to offset other areas of impact beyond roads such as housing and water and sewer lines.

"It looks pretty exciting actually," said Rep. Gary Sukut, R-Williston. "We have a lot of needs out there and it looks like the governor is attempting to address those needs. I don't know that there's ever going to be enough, but if we can make that (level of funding) happen, it will address those needs and make a dent in our problems."

Rep. Shirley Meyer, a Democrat from Dickinson, said the fight for more resources in oil country has been a long time coming.

"My frustration was trying to communicate those impacts to our eastern counterparts," Meyer said, adding she believes her party's call for a special session to deal with the problem finally brought the needed attention to the problem.

When asked if the funding Dalrymple was recommending would be enough, Meyer said, "No, and (he's proposed) a huge amount, but that's what we were trying to point out. This is a pretty good catch up, but these roads have been destroyed. Now instead of repairing we're rebuilding."

Meyer hopes the $100 million in oil impact grant money will be able to help with the housing problem, or at least free up some of the counties' money for them to address housing.

She also approved of the $25 million going to a municipal water supply system for the Williston area.


"Water's huge because without that, we can't frack these wells," Meyer said.

The governor also proposed $600,000 for a new Division of Energy at the Department of Commerce, which will help coordinate the development of all of the energy sectors.

Dalrymple's suggestion for state employee pay raises received mixed reviews from legislators.

The governor is recommending a 3 percent raise, with 1 percent of that contributing to the retirement fund. Thus, employees will actually only get a 2 percent pay raise.

"The state is an employer and we're competing with the oil patch for a lot of these people and I'm not sure we can do that with a 2 percent increase," Taylor said.

"Three percent is probably in the ball park when it comes to inflation, but with 1 percent going to retirement, it's really only 2 percent. It would be fine if it were really 3 percent, but it's actually 2 percent," said Rep. Bob Martinson, R-Bismarck.

Still some thought the plan was sufficient.

"He certainly has a fine package for state employees," Stenehjem said of Dalrymple. "They're getting money for retirement and they're holding the medical. I would hope state employees would be pleased with that."


Stuart Savelkoul, head of the Public Employees Association, said they'll be pushing for a 4 percent increase with 1 percent going toward retirement.

"State employees may make 2 percent more than they did last year, but state employees are still 12 percent behind the market, so that's not enough to close the gap," Savelkoul said.

Dalrymple's proposal on higher education funding also drew some skepticism.

Many legislators have complained about the amount of funding going to North Dakota's colleges and universities, and part of the budget includes a proposal for a Commission on Higher Education Funding to "improve the equity, the transparency and the effectiveness of higher education," Dalrymple told legislators.

"Any time we have another commission or board, I have to question whether it's really necessary," said Rep. Blair Thoreson, R-Fargo, chair of the government operations subcommittee on the House Appropriations Committee.

"It's a little strong on the higher ed. I think this is too much money after the large increases they got last time," Carlson said.

Part of that money will be used to offset and prevent tuition increases in two-year schools and minimize tuition hikes to 2.5 percent in four-year schools.

"Any time we can hold tuition steady, I think it's a good thing," said Rep. Mike Nathe, R-Bismarck.


Bismarck State College is getting $7.5 million for renovations to its student union and another $1.5 million for a maintenance building.

Dave Clark, vice president for BSC, said he thinks it's a fair budget.

"We're really excited because we've been asking for the student union for about 20 years," Clark said.

BSC also is getting $731,000 in lieu of a tuition increase.

Dalrymple also proposed a new voluntary mechanism for K-12 teacher pay that would add a performance component to a teacher's salary.

Schools decide whether or not they want to participate, but those who do get additional funding. Dalrymple set aside $7.5 million in the budget for the program.

While teachers would still get their base salary, they would receive extra money if they had a higher level of educational attainment, if they accept additional responsibilities such as coaching, or if progress was made in student growth through lower dropout rates, better attendance, higher test scores, etc. Teachers who do not meet the criteria will not receive anything less than their base salary.

"I think teachers should get performance pay just like in the private sector," Nathe said. "We need to make sure we're getting the bang for our buck from teachers.


Greg Burns, executive director of the North Dakota Education Association, said his group helped develop the plan because teacher pay should be determined from multiple measures that are actually indicative of what they do rather than base it simply on how long they've been teaching.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

What To Read Next
Get Local