- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 4, 2016

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Gov. Jack Dalrymple directed state agencies Wednesday to plan for 10 percent reductions in their budgets over the next two years, an effort to deal with a slowing economy.

The Republican governor’s move reflects a downturn in tax collections due to slumping farm commodity and oil prices. The blueprint by Dalrymple, who is not seeking re-election, is the first proposed budget decrease for the state since 2002 and the biggest for state agencies since Democratic Gov. George Sinner suggested 10 percent reductions in 1992.

“With tax revenues falling short of projections, we must find greater savings and efficiencies,” Dalrymple told agency directors at the state Capitol. “We knew the possibility existed that our strong collections could decline.”

The directive marked the beginning of the lengthy job of writing Dalrymple’s spending recommendations for the 2017 Legislature. Lawmakers will get Dalrymple’s blueprint in December, about a week before his term ends.

Republican and Democratic lawmakers have said that Dalrymple’s budget work is likely to carry some influence.

Dalrymple, who has been governor since 2010, mostly has led the state during a time of unprecedented growth and has not called for agencies to trim spending in prior budget addresses. But in February, he ordered deep cuts to government agencies and a massive raid on the state’s savings to make up for a more than $1 billion budget shortfall in the current two-year budget cycle.

North Dakota Budget Director Pam Sharp told agency officials that Dalrymple’s budget plan is “appropriate and is needed” due to less-than-forecast tax collections.

The state’s current two-year, $6 billion general fund budget has nearly doubled since 2009. That budget, including federal aid, is a record $14.2 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.

The governor said spending on special one-time projects will “not be considered unless they are absolutely critical.” Dalrymple directed agency heads to “find savings with the smallest possible impacts on services on services to the state’s citizens.”

Some budget items are exempt from Dalrymple’s, including state funds for local schools. The directive also does not include the cost of any state worker pay raise that Dalrymple might include in his budget recommendations to the 2017 Legislature.

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