Dalrymple in depth

Editor's note: On Friday, North Dakota Lt. Gov. Jack Dalrymple met with the Herald's editorial board. The following is Part 1 of an edited transcript of the conversation.

Jack Dalrymple
Jack Dalrymple

Editor's note: On Friday, North Dakota Lt. Gov. Jack Dalrymple met with the Herald's editorial board. The following is Part 1 of an edited transcript of the conversation.

Part 2 of the transcript will be published next Sunday.

Q. How does it feel?

A. It feels funny, because I've been doing the same thing all along.

It's really the same office and the same people and the same everything else, except that now, everybody is saying congratulations to me like I've done something.


So, it feels funny.

Q. North Dakota has a lot of expensive projects pending. What are some of your spending priorities for the upcoming budget?

A. First of all, most of what we're doing is going to be a continuation of things that I worked on for 10 years with Gov. Hoeven.

That means developing, growing and diversifying the state economy.

That's really the core of the whole effort because it leads to more jobs being created. These better-paying jobs and a stronger economy also lead to more revenue being available for the state.

In other words, we can move forward, be fiscally responsible and also look for opportunities to provide tax relief.

So, build up reserves cover all of our needs and provide tax relief. Those themes are still very much the kind of foundation of what this next two years will be about.

Having said that, we know that over the next two years, we're likely going to emphasize a few things.


One of them is infrastructure. We have not been neglecting that, but we know we have some huge commitments out there -- roads and bridges, statewide but especially in western North Dakota.

Then we have flood prevention in the Red River Valley, especially Fargo and West Fargo. That has got to be addressed.

That is followed by Devils Lake, where we know that we have to control those water levels once and for all. We have a plan now that we think can do it: It involves increasing the west end outlet plus adding an east Devils Lake outlet that would run at a smaller flow.

And also doing the prevention measures at the Tolna Coulee just in case.

We need to move forward on all three of those fronts simultaneously and solve that problem.

Water supply also is an issue in the northwest. Williston, N.D., especially needs help.

And then you add in the pipelines and the transmission lines.

Add it all together, and you can see that this is going to be a five-year period where infrastructure is going to be really what we need to spend a lot of time and effort on


And I think we can do it.

Q. It sounds like a stimulus to me

A. Well, it is the stimulus. It's the right kind of stimulus. This really is what stimulus should be.

It's an investment that produces a return that is long-lasting, and I think that the public will accept that because it's not an expenditure that needs to be sustained every two years.

Q. The Board of Higher Education was here in Grand Forks yesterday, and they have a large request in front of the Legislature.

The part of it that is of special interest to us in Grand Forks is the expansion of the medical school. Have you had a chance to look at that?

A. We have not finished analyzing that, and we have not really had a full group discussion on it. So that is still ahead of us.

Q. Would that be reflected in the governor's budget or would it be presented just from the board?


A. It's a board request, of course

We would either be recommending it or not recommending it as a one-time expenditure (in the governor's budget).

Q. You haven't decided what to do yet?

A. We really haven't. That's one of items that you take as much time as you can to talk about. It will be decided at the end.

Q. I want to know what are you spending your intellectual energy on. What are the things you want to think about as governor

that challenge you?

A. Well, as I said before, I'm not entirely new here. I've been right beside Gov. Hoeven for 10 years. So, what you've seen is partly what Jack Dalrymple cared about.

But I mentioned infrastructure. I think we have to approach that as not just a sort of project-by-project, momentary crisis thing. Instead, we need to look at the entire statewide scope of what we need to accomplish in the next five years, and then systematically go at that.


Another area is energy development. We need to elevate that to a higher status within state government, in particular in the Department of Commerce. Because between oil and gas, coal, wind and biofuel, this is our big opportunity for the state.

We need an Office of Energy Development. We need somebody who does nothing but spend all their time working on it and not just wait for people to come to us and ask us to do this thing or that thing. The payoff, in my opinion, will be huge for everybody.

So, those are two macro things.

Beyond that, we've talked about education a little bit. There is more work to be done there, but the major equity and adequacy issues are over.

Now, we are in K-12 looking at improving the quality of instruction. It's essential to get the funding fair and adequate, but then the core issue is still there: Who is that person in the classroom? Do they have an opportunity to improve as a teacher over time? Are they getting the best possible support to be everything that they can be as the person in front of the students?

So, we're working on that.

Higher education, I also mentioned. We're going to open the door to improving the funding methodology for higher ed. We know that we're in a partnership with the board, and we can't tell them what to do. But we want to encourage them to look at new concepts.

Q. I hear kind of an activist agenda here. An Office of Energy Development -- that's an innovation. Would it be a stand-alone office, or ...


A. I think it belongs in the Department of Commerce as a full division with a status equal to every other division, such as tourism, community development and economic development.

Q. What did you mean when you mentioned opening the door to improving the funding methodology for higher education?

A. Well, the trend around the country is to look more to outcome-based funding or "completion funding."

In North Dakota, our entire funding methodology basically is based on this sort of ancient history of how much you used to get. And every bienium, you just build on your increase in costs over what they were in 1962 -- and there's really no rationale behind it anymore. It just sort of exists because it's the baseline.

There's also the method of peer group financing, but I think people are losing a little faith in that sort of approach, too.

Q. I've heard you say two things that would be -- well, revolutionary is a strong word, but that would make significant change in the funding of higher education. One is abandoning the peer group equity argument and the other is abandoning the existing formula.

A. I don't think you would abandon either one of those things. But I think what you would do is introduce a new concept, which is the beginning of some funds going to the outcomes that you're looking for.

What is it that you want out of your university system? You want people to get degrees -- to complete a curriculum, earn a degree and turn into a more valuable citizen than they were before.

Q. I put that argument to a UND dean. The response was this: "Completion is not a good measure because if you insist on people completing their studies, you limit mobility. And you can't MAKE people go to UND any more than you could MAKE them stay after they want to leave."

A. There are complications to it for sure. But I do think you could mathematically devise a formula that would be perceived as fair and that rewards outcomes.

Q. So, you would actually base some portion of funding on completing a program or degree?

A. Some portion. Not the whole thing.

Q. What's your sense of the Roundtable on Higher Education and the status of its "greater flexibility in return for greater accountability" bargain today?

A. I think the entrepreneurial concept of the Roundtable helped us win more higher education funding, more support for higher education in the state. Also, the focus on economic development -- the sense that "we need to develop our state, and you universities need to partner with us to do so."

On balance, I think adopting the Roundtable reforms was a great decision, because all of these campuses have done far more than I ever would have imagined 20 years ago. So, that's been good

Q. That probably was the real damage of the overspending on the presidents' houses and the events that led to the resignation of President Joe Chapman from North Dakota State University. It was the way the spending scandals called into question that basic agreement. It made people think, "Well maybe this money we're sending to the universities is not all for economic development after all."

A. You're absolutely right. It was more than misspending, say, $500,000. It was the fact that the $500,000 was supposed to be going to good works for the state of North Dakota.

Instead and all of a sudden, it's just an extra wing on a house.

That hurts, it really did.

Q. With Rick Berg and John Hoeven going to Washington, how will they go about squaring the circle of being Republicans in a newly conservative House and Senate, but still try to get money back to North Dakota for a flood diversion and other things? Do you expect that to be a challenge for the two of them?

A. It's a great dilemma of the U.S. Congress. More and more people are talking about it being kind of a permanent, systemic flaw -- and I don't know that I have the pat answer here.

But in my mind, what they need to do is stop solving the problems by letting everyone have what they want. Every bill is a Christmas tree that finally has enough ornaments on it so the bill gets the votes. That approach ultimately is doomed to failure.

On the other hand, earmarking has to exist in some form.

So, I would talk to Rick and John about some kind of a permanent system where there's a certain amount of money appropriated that will go to earmarks. Then, it's evenly divided by congressional district. Maybe senators get like a double share; maybe the leaders get a triple share if you want acknowledge their seniority in some way.

But one way or another, it would be a formula for earmarks that people could look at transparently and say, "That was the earmark bill, and it cost this much money. And at least it was allocated somewhat fairly."

Then you could move on to other kinds of legislation, and get people to make a pure policy decision on each of those bills or their amendments, rather than having payoffs in the form of earmarks attached to everything.

In the short term, all of the new congressmen will have that dilemma. A newcomer will stand up in his group and say, "I'm for holding down the cost of government, and I'm also for getting like a bunch of stuff for my state," just like they all do. It's a really tough deal.

But I have some hope that John Hoeven is the kind of a guy who approaches everything so rationally and so diligently that whatever he figures out should happen, there is a chance that some people may follow him there.

In short, there has to be a systemic solution and not just a bunch of talk.

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