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Published November 13 2012

Forum editorial: Dalrymple and ND’s prosperity

Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s easy election Nov. 6 to a four-year term as North Dakota governor was no surprise. He was expected to win big, and win big he did. The 10-year lieutenant governor, who became governor when Gov. John Hoeven was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010, took 63 percent of the vote over Sen. Ryan Taylor of Towner.

In two years in the governor’s chair, Dalrymple has established himself as a no-nonsense working governor. In two major floods and in the dislocations in the booming Oil Patch, Dalrymple and his team have been on scene, not for photo ops, but most importantly to lend support where needed and gather information where required. His is a data-driven administration that has demonstrated a willingness to be anywhere and everywhere in the state when it is necessary for the governor to assess a situation.

A veteran of the Legislature, the governor understands the give-and-take between lawmakers and the governor. It’s not always friendly because power is the prize. The Legislature routinely tries to assign more power to itself, often at the expense of the executive branch. Dalrymple understands the legislative impulse, and as governor has not hesitated to veto attempted power grabs.

But mostly, the governor and his advisers know that energy development and unprecedented agricultural economic strength offer opportunities the state has never enjoyed before. They are preparing a final budget proposal that will be based on the latest revenue projections (due this month). It can be safely assumed the trends of the past couple of years will remain in place, and that revenues will continue to grow at a jaw-dropping pace. It can also be assumed the governor will ask for one-time and other appropriations commensurate with expanding demands on government agencies and with opportunities for investments in the engines of economic growth.

If there is a downside to Dalrymple’s election it’s that Taylor will not be returning to the state Senate as minority leader. Taylor has been an articulate and passionate voice for taking stock of the impacts of oil and gas development. His campaign warned that the values the state cherishes will be at risk if development proceeds without sufficient regard for water, land and traditional farming and ranching. He’s right. His practical wisdom in the Legislature will be missed, and at this point no one among the majority party seems ready to take up that cause – and say what an awful lot of North Dakotans are thinking.

Maybe that is among Dalrymple’s tasks. He certainly has the support of voters, east and west. He has the respect of industry and agriculture. He has popularity to spend, and he should consider spending some of it on a legacy that could be for more than an oil-fed revenue stream.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.