Fargo - Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley peered through a borrowed pair of reading glasses and ticked off the price of oil over the past several months.
If current low oil prices persist and trigger a reduction in taxes, it could have an estimated $5 billion-plus impact on the state's budget, he said.
Plus, every dollar average is a $100 million shift in the state’s revenue picture, Wrigley said.
It’s a sobering picture as the state Legislature convenes Tuesday, even as it also signals the role the state has played in increasing America’s energy independence.
“This is the goal, but also the reality,” Wrigley said Monday morning at a Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce event.
Wrigley was the first speaker at a monthly series of Chamber breakfast events called “Eggs & Issues.” About 150 business and community leaders registered to attend.
Craig Whitney, Chamber president, described the event as an expansion of the group’s public policy efforts.
“What we want to do every month is discuss pertinent issues and have a discussion back and forth of what’s on people’s minds,” Whitney said.
Wrigley discussed the governor’s budget priorities, proposed tax relief and the effect of oil prices.
He said by the end of the session, the state will have a budget that features a $375 million structural surplus, tax relief and strong reserve funds – despite large outlays.
“You’re going to hear a lot of discussion this winter about enormous sums of money, enormous investments in infrastructure, physical and intellectual across the state of North Dakota that are timely and necessary to keep the pace of what we have, which is the No. 1 economy in America,” Wrigley said.
In addition to statewide priorities, he discussed funding for targeted needs, such as housing in the west and flood protection and water supply issues in the east. He noted that there is more support for projects beyond residents’ own backyards.
“The people of this state have come to realize more than ever before that we have a linked economy,” Wrigley said. “It matters to the people of Jamestown and Fargo what is happening in Crosby and Tioga. It impacts the entire state of North Dakota when there are negative economic impacts anywhere in the state.
“There is one North Dakota, and we’re absolutely in this together.”
The next Eggs & Issues event will be Feb. 3. The Chamber is also hosting a day at the Capitol on Feb. 12.
If you go
What: Eggs & Issues featuring Laura McCarten, Minnesota regional vice president of Northern States Power
When: 7:30 a.m. Feb. 3
Where: Radisson Hotel, 201 5th St. N., Fargo
Info: $20 for Chamber members, $30 general admission. Register at www.fmwfchamber.com or call (218) 233-1100.