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Sen. Tim Flakoll, Published January 26 2011

Less obvious investments nonetheless are important to ND

The 62nd session of the North Dakota Legislature is under way. Because of sound decisions in the past, a diverse economy and a hard-working and entrepreneurial business sector, North Dakota’s overall economy is strong. North Dakota is the only state in the union with a positive financial picture. While 49 other states are looking at their options of cutting or reducing programs or raising taxes, North Dakota has a different and unique set of challenges.

While other states are looking at how they can simply continue to address the needs of their residents over the next few years, our challenge in the Legislature is how to strategically and boldly prepare for the future. This preparation must be done in a way that ensures we continue to have a strong and diverse economy with job and educational opportunities available to draw people to our state far into the future.

This session, the state of North Dakota will also have challenges imposed on us by the federal government, including health care and education. Health care alone will receive $175 million less from the feds, an amount that will need to be made up by North Dakota taxpayers in order to continue those services so important to our seniors and most vulnerable citizens. Overall, our cost to continue existing programs will amount to an additional $350 million, and that’s just to hold even.

Some investment opportunities for our state, such as the proposed new greenhouse at North Dakota State University that will provide continued improvements to seedstocks for our farmers, are widely popular and quickly rise to the forefront of our legislative agenda. Other spending priorities and opportunities, however, are less obvious. Regardless of the glamour or popularity of proposed measures, we must continue to focus on growing our knowledge-based economy, improving our education system and further addressing how we care for those in need.

During this session, I will push a number of issues, including: one-time funding for a new NDSU greenhouse, a better funding model for higher education, improvements in school safety and an improved plan for outcome-based school funding.

We also need to look at investments in our state infrastructure in order to prevent flooding and ensure that farmers and the oil industry can produce at a high level. Current technology only allows us to extract about 8 percent of the oil in the Bakken Formation.

We need to capitalize on the expertise of our research universities to deliver technology that can improve our recovery rate so that the energy segment of our economy stays strong.

I encourage everyone who is affected by the decisions we make in the Legislature to offer up their opinions and suggestions. North Dakota has a long and proud history of being a citizen Legislature that places a high priority on listening to the neighbors and citizens we serve. The process and end result is most often best when everyone is engaged and involved.

Flakoll, R-Fargo, has served District 44 in the North Dakota Senate since 1998.