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Sen. Rich Wardner and Rep. Al Carlson , Published January 19 2013

Letter: Vision for a stronger North Dakota

We live in an incredible time in North Dakota history. The state’s growth in our economy, population and wealth is unprecedented. These achievements are even more impressive when viewed against the backdrop of the national and world economy.

Growth in the oil industry has helped propel our state’s recent success. And while we didn’t put oil in the ground, we have worked hard to help make sure North Dakota can take full advantage of energy resources. But the story of the state’s success isn’t just about energy development. Virtually every segment of the economy is growing including agriculture, advanced manufacturing, tourism and information technology.

As leaders of the Legislature, our first priority will be to do all we can to ensure the continuation of robust economic growth. We must and will continue to empower private enterprise to create more good-paying jobs across our state. And we must diversify our economy as a hedge against being too reliant on any one sector for long-term prosperity. To accomplish that goal, we will continue to strengthen the business climate through regulatory and tax reform to attract private investment, high-paying jobs and economic diversity.

We recognize that economic success has also created challenges, and we are prepared to meet these challenges head on. We stand ready to make historic investments in infrastructure. We will make major investments in road, flood and water projects across North Dakota over the next two years. And that is in addition to major infrastructure investments we have made over the past several bienniums.

Our willingness to invest in the future extends to education. Not only do we have a constitutional mandate to adequately fund education, we have a moral obligation to ensure we have given children the tools they need to succeed. To meet that challenge, we are planning to increase investment in local schools to help offset the pressures of population growth, ensure all children receive a quality education and prepare kids for a future bright with opportunity.

We also have an obligation to return the excess revenue our strong economy has deposited in the state treasury to the taxpayers. After all, it is your money, and we are committed to significant and sustainable relief from the burden of property, sales and income taxes. While there are many plans on the table today, we can guarantee you that before the session ends, you and your family will see real tax relief.

To sustain our plan into the future and protect residents from tax increases, we must build a strong reserve. Reserves are a hedge against a volatile national economy and overzealous federal regulations. Anything less is irresponsible.

By building a strong reserve, cutting taxes wherever we can and making prudent investments in priorities, we can and will make North Dakota an even better place to live, work and raise a family. That is the promise Republicans make as we deliberate during the legislative session.

Carlson, R-Fargo, is House majority leader. Wardner, R-Dickinson, is Senate majority leader.