- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 7, 2014

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Gov. Jack Dalrymple asked North Dakota agencies to stick with their present spending plans when crafting new budgets for the next two years, but he left open options to meet “the dynamic needs that come with growth.”

“I am committed to holding the line on ongoing spending, while recognizing that we must also meet the many needs driven by a growing population and the nation’s strongest state economy,” Dalrymple told agency administrators on Wednesday at the state Capitol in Bismarck.

The Republican governor’s guidelines will be used by North Dakota departments to write spending plans for the next two-year budget cycle. Dalrymple will use the proposals to craft his own spending recommendations to the Legislature when lawmakers meet in January.

Spending has soared in recent years with North Dakota’s strong economy spurred by oil development in the western part of the state.

The state’s current two-year, $6.8 billion general fund budget has more than doubled since 2009.

“We must demonstrate that we are good stewards of the people’s money,” Dalrymple told department administrators. “We want to avoid painful adjustments if the economy were to slow down in the future.”

Dalrymple outlined similar directions to state agency administrators in 2012. The $4.2 billion general fund budget at that time eventually rose almost 62 percent for the 2013-15 budget period. The increase included millions of dollars in state aid to help western North Dakota communities deal with exploding energy development in the region.

The state’s current two-year budget including federal aid is $14 billion. The general fund portion of the budget is spent on an assortment of programs, including education and human services. It is funded largely by state taxes on income, sales and energy.

North Dakota’s financial reserves are pegged at about $2 billion at present, said Pam Sharp, the state’s budget director. When the current budget cycle ends on June 30, 2015, the state should have a general fund balance of about $500 million because revenues - largely from oil - have been higher than earlier forecast, she said.


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