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Patrick Springer, Published October 31 2012

Oil boom central subject in governor’s race

FARGO – North Dakota’s galloping oil boom has dominated the governor’s race as candidates have diverged over how best to manage the unprecedented growth.

The Democratic challenger, Ryan Taylor, has accused Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple of failing to manage the boom with a boldness that preserves the quality of life and sense of community that North Dakotans cherish.

Dalrymple, for his part, has touted his government experience – including 10 years as lieutenant governor – as vital in guiding the state as it grapples with public works, housing and public safety challenges that go along with North Dakota’s rapid rise to become the nation’s No. 2 oil producer.

“I think experience is very important right now,” said Dalrymple, who ascended to the governor’s office in 2010 when John Hoeven was elected to the U.S. Senate. “We’re at a unique time in our history.”

North Dakota can’t be reduced to numbers, Taylor said, and touts his own experience as a rancher and lawmaker. “I think it’s about leadership,” he said. “North Dakota needs a leader, someone who can set a bold course.”

Taylor, a state senator and rancher from Towner, said he and Dalrymple provide “stark differences” in their approaches to education funding, property tax relief and aid to Oil Patch communities.

He advocates keeping 40 percent of oil tax revenue in Oil Patch counties, up from 11 percent, so local governments have more direct and immediate means to respond to impacts.

“It doesn’t have to make that trip to Bismarck,” Taylor said, referring to funds he said can take up to 12 or 18 months. “It’s an eternity for these communities.”

Dalrymple counters that he has significantly boosted investments to handle the boom, essentially doubling the state transportation budget, and that the money flows quickly.

The state is pouring

$1.2 billion this two-year budget cycle on public works, and the governor has proposed $2.5 billion in roads, highways and other public works statewide for the next biennium.

Taylor advocates spending $110 million for school facilities in the upcoming biennium and setting a goal of raising teacher salaries from 47th to 40th in four years.

As lieutenant governor, Dalrymple led an effort to improve education and achieve equity in school funding. “We’ve made a tremendous amount of progress there,” he said.

Taylor proposes $30.6 million of child care facility grants in areas of high need, $15 million to support workforce child care and

$20 million in Head Start and pre-kindergarten programs.

Dalrymple points out that personal income growth in North Dakota has more than doubled the national rate in the past decade, and two-thirds of job openings are outside the Oil Patch.

Both candidates advocate further tax relief, and both would expand the homestead tax credit. Taylor would provide tax relief for renters, while Dalrymple would provide some state income tax relief in his proposed $545 million of additional relief.

If approved, cumulative tax relief begun under Hoeven would total $2.5 billion by 2013-15, Dalrymple said, adding that it would help spur growth.

“That’s pretty significant tax relief,” he said.

Both candidates agree that North Dakota’s strong financial position from its natural resource wealth means the next governor will be in a position most fellow governors would find enviable.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522

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