- Associated Press - Thursday, December 15, 2016

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Republican Gov. Doug Burgum took office Thursday and told state agency leaders that the goal during his administration will be to make state government more efficient and responsive to citizens.

“We’ve got a chance to really think differently,” Burgum said during the 15-minute meeting at the state Capitol. “That’s the quest we’re on.”

The one-time computer software executive turned philanthropist touted familiar campaign themes during the meeting, such as promises to cut spending and halt property tax increases, and to turn downtown areas into vibrant social and economic hubs that are attractive to live in. He also said the state must find ways to complement the state’s economy that’s largely dependent on oil and agriculture.

He takes charge against the backdrop of a state economy that has cooled as oil and crop prices have slumped, and where international attention is focused on a contentious protest over the Dakota Access oil pipeline.

Burgum did not take questions from reporters, but in a Facebook video said the four-state, $3.8 billion pipeline is a “legally permitted project” that has been stalled by the Obama administration, is good for the North Dakota economy and is the safest method to move oil. He also said that he wants federal reimbursement for policing costs so that state taxpayers won’t foot the bill.

Burgum has been mum on whether he will accept Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s budget plan in whole or part. The drop in commodity prices led Dalrymple to order cuts to government agencies and to raid the state’s savings to make up for a more than $1.6 billion budget shortfall.

Burgum spokesman Mike Nowatzki said the governor would release his spending plan Jan. 3, when the Legislature reconvenes.

Burgum, a multimillionaire, wore blue jeans and a sport coat on his first day as the state’s chief executive. He was elected governor by running as an outsider, bucking what he called the “good old boy” party establishment and vowing to “reinvent state government.”

He won the governorship in November in a lopsided victory over a sparsely-funded Democratic challenger Marvin Nelson and without the backing of the state’s GOP establishment. Burgum’s biggest challenge came in the primary, when he beat Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem after Stenehjem won the party’s backing at the group’s state convention.

Burgum, who hasn’t held office before, is a small-town North Dakota success story. He mortgaged the family farm near Arthur to join a startup, Great Plains Software, in 1983. Later, as CEO, he took the company public in 1997 before selling it to Microsoft in 2001 for $1.1 billion.

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Online:

Burgum’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/dougfordakota/

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