Hoeven sets income, energy goals during State of State address
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Beginning the 2007 Legislature on a buoyant note, Gov.
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Beginning the 2007 Legislature on a buoyant note, Gov. John Hoeven predicted North Dakota's newly robust economic growth should lift the state above the national average for personal income within a decade.
The governor, in his State of the State speech to a joint session of the state House and Senate, said he believes North Dakota's energy production will double by 2025, propelled by development of ethanol, biodiesel fuel and wind-generated electricity.
"Our economy is expanding, unemployment is down, and wages and income are growing faster than the national average," Hoeven said Wednesday. "Ladies and gentlemen, the state of our state is strong."
Democrats said the Republican governor's address underlined themes they have long emphasized, such as promotion of renewable energy. They said they hoped it would portend bipartisan cooperation during the Legislature, where the GOP controls both the House and Senate.
"We extend, across the aisle, a greeting to the Republicans and to Gov. Hoeven to work together on these many, many important issues," said Rep. Merle Boucher, D-Rolette, the House minority leader.
Rep. Eliot Glassheim, D-Grand Forks, remarked that Hoeven's speech "was so optimistic, it took my breath away."
The governor's remarks, delivered shortly after the bang of gavels marked the beginning of the 2007 session, included promises for property tax reductions, an overhaul of the state's education finance system, and tougher sentences for violent sex offenders.
The governor praised two North Dakota National Guard soldiers, Sgt. 1st Class Tim Wicks and 2nd Lt. Dan Murphy, as representatives of the state's military presence in Afghanistan and the Middle East.
But most of the governor's speech focused on North Dakota's economy, and some of the initiatives and business people that he said deserved some of the credit for its health.
Two Great River Energy executives and Harold Newman, an ethanol developer and owner of a Jamestown sign company, were singled out for ethanol projects and a proposed cattle feeding operation near Underwood, in west-central North Dakota, which would use distillers' grain from Great River's ethanol factory there.
Three energy executives, including a Marathon Oil Corp. manager, were lauded for their efforts to develop western North Dakota's oil and gas production. Marathon, which is based in Houston, intends to invest $1.5 billion in the state within the next five years, and drill as many as 300 oil wells.
Jake Marvin, chairman of Marvin Windows and Doors, of Warroad, Minn., got sustained applause for his company's North Dakota manufacturing facilities, which include locations in Fargo and Grafton, and two new plants in West Fargo.
Hoeven praised Jody and Marla Hoff, who helped found Amberwaves, a Richardton equipment maker for agriculture and the oil and gas industry. The Hoffs were active in promoting Red Trail Energy, a Richardton ethanol plant that recently began producing fuel, Hoeven said.
The Hoffs had moved to Richardton from Minnesota to start their business, "and that new ethanol plant is now bringing other couples home to North Dakota as well," the governor said. "In fact, six of the top seven managers at Red Trail came home to North Dakota."
In 2005, North Dakota's average per capita personal income was $31,230, which ranked 32nd in the nation, according to the U.S. Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis. The national average was $34,495.
In 2000, North Dakotans earned 84 percent of the national average in per capita national income. In 2005, the last year for which data is available, it was 91 percent of the average, the Commerce Department data says.
"Let us resolve that we will not only meet, but exceed, the national average in personal income, and achieve a higher standard of living for all North Dakotans, and we will do it within the next decade," Hoeven said.
Boucher said the goal was attainable.
"Considering the great resources that we have, the energy, the food, the fiber, and the great talent that we have, and the work ethic ... North Dakota per capita income should surpass the nation's average," Boucher said. "That will speak for itself. That will bring people here. That will bring businesses here, and industry."
North Dakota's economic expansion has helped fatten the state treasury to unprecedented levels. State legislators expect to have a surplus of almost $540 million when they begin crafting a new spending plan for the 2007-09 budget period.
Hoeven's own budget recommendations to the Legislature seeks a 24 percent increase in state general fund spending, to $2.47 billion over two years.
In an interview, Hoeven said he expects production of ethanol and other biofuels to double by 2025, from 400 million gallons to 800 million gallons, and the state's electric power production to double from 4,000 megawatts to 8,000 megawatts.
Much of the growth will be provided by wind power, the governor said. Hoeven on Wednesday announced plans by FPL Energy, a Florida company that has developed wind energy projects in Burleigh, Oliver and LaMoure counties, to build another farm in Cavalier County, in North Dakota's northeastern corner. The wind farm will be capable of generating up to 160 megawatts of power, Hoeven said.
Rep. Mike Brandenburg, R-Edgeley, said both wind energy and traditional fuels, such as oil, natural gas and coal, would play a role in the state's increased production.
"I think this is a breakout session," Brandenburg said. "When you're dealing with renewables, and looking at partnerships with oil and gas and coal and ethanol and biodiesel and wind, I see tremendous progress happening."