BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum highlighted the successes of the state's energy sector during his annual State of the State address on Tuesday, while also calling on lawmakers to provide tax relief and address workforce shortages that he says continue to be a top barrier to economic growth.
Burgum delivered his hour-long speech on the first day of the legislative session during a joint session of the House and Senate. In his wide-ranging address, Burgum called for infrastructure investment and stressed the need to provide tax relief to North Dakotans hit by higher costs for food, fuel and other necessities. He also touted the state's energy sector, and the state's efforts to capture carbon dioxide for a more sustainable future.
"In today's global uncertainty, our energy and food security make us the envy of many," Burgum said. "Today the State of our State is one of strength and infinite opportunity, blessed with our abundant natural resources, inherent freedoms and industrious, caring people."
On Dec. 7, Burgum announced a proposed $18.4 billion budget that increases state spending by more than 3% and includes $3 billion in infrastructure funding. The budget also addresses the worker shortage issue by proposing increases in workforce development funding and public employee salaries.
Citing the costs of inflation and high interest rates, Burgum on Tuesday also urged lawmakers to approve a proposed income tax relief plan that he said would eliminate the state individual income tax for three out of five taxpayers and create the lowest flat-rate individual income tax in the nation.
Burgum also said he supports pending legislation that would exempt active-duty military pay from the state's individual income tax —saying that some of North Dakota's own National Guard members have moved to neighboring Minnesota to take advantage of a similar benefit.
Burgum highlighted North Dakota's production of several crops, but noted that the state has fallen behind when it comes to animal agriculture. The Republican governor called on lawmakers to increase individual farming freedoms that would allow non-relatives to pool resources to start or expand livestock operations.
Burgum also said North Dakota's efforts to store carbon dioxide, known as carbon capture, storage and utilization, is creating a sustainable path forward for the agriculture and energy industries. He said North Dakota is one of only two states with authority to permit Class VI injection wells for carbon dioxide storage and is better positioned than other states to take advantage of the emerging industry.
"Today, we're on our way toward achieving carbon neutrality as a state by 2030, thanks to our extraordinary capacity to safely store over 252 billion tons of CO2, or 50 years of the nation's CO2 output," he said. "And in the process, we can help secure the future of our state's two largest industries, energy and agriculture."