MOORHEAD — North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum turned a policy discussion with the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce into something of a question-and-answer session on Wednesday, March 4.
Subjects ranged from how best to use proceeds from North Dakota's $7 billion Legacy Fund to how communities might fund development of career academies.
During his remarks Wednesday, Burgum said if Legacy Fund dollars are spent they should go for one-time things and not things that constitute an ongoing expense.
During his State of the State address, Burgum shared his vision for the fund and how to use its earnings, stating the top priority should be protecting the state and future generations from downturns in oil tax revenues, which can occur from market forces and world events.
In his address, Burgum proposed reinvesting a portion of the earnings from the Legacy Fund back into the fund's principal. It's been estimated that reinvesting about half of the earnings back into the principal could grow the fund to more than $26 billion by 2033.
Earnings not reinvested in the fund itself should be used for strategic investments in three areas, Burgum said in his address, including: infrastructure, property tax relief through smart growth incentives, and "transformational" legacy projects.
Burgum said Wednesday it makes sense to keep the Legacy Fund growing, as North Dakota may need the money to replace oil tax revenue that may not be there decades down the road.
A number of other ideas have been suggested for how to use the Legacy Fund, one of the latest being a suggestion from state Rep. Rick Becker, R-Bismarck, who advocates letting voters decide if the state should abolish property taxes and replace the revenue with other sources, including money from the Legacy Fund.
On the subject of career academies, which are designed to serve high school students who aren't on a college path but want to land good jobs after graduation, Burgum said Wednesday that he's all for such academies and believes North Dakota communities that want them can find a way to make them happen.
"We just need to figure out how to get it done," he said, adding that a number of proposals addressing just that are likely to surface in the Legislature soon.
Burgum said another important issue is how open North Dakota is to allowing people who have earned professional or occupational licenses elsewhere to apply them in the state. North Dakota recently eased such restrictions for spouses of people in the military, and Burgum said it makes sense to make a similar change for families in general.
He said Arizona is very generous when it comes to accepting licences earned elsewhere and he said that has helped Arizona's economy.
"We should have the lowest barriers for someone to get here," Burgum said.