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Tuesday, January 24, 2017


TIGHTEN THE SCREWS Former Gov. Dalrymple offered a preliminary 2017-19 state budget last month, since then there is more evidence of soft revenues and Gov. Doug Burgum recommends further cuts. Burgum believes overspending is the “root culprit” in the state’s budget woes.

HUNKER DOWN "We do not have $10 a bushel wheat. We don’t have $100 oil anymore, either.” -- Kathleen Neset, chairwoman of the State Board of Higher Education, indicated higher ed would have to streamline its work to manage deep budget cuts. Their 2017-19 budget may be below 2011-13 levels.

"SOUTH DAKOTA is really running very well. It's a state that doesn't spend money we don't have, our financial house is in order, we're AAA-rated, our pension is relatively well-funded." -- Gov. Dennis Daugaard. SD shares ND’s weak farm economy, but is untouched by low oil prices.

WOMEN IN LEGISLATURES The percentage of ND legislators who are women is a little more than 18 percent. South Dakota has a similar proportion of women legislators, while Montana has roughly 27 percent. Colorado tops the nation with 42 percent; Mississippi, as is so often the case, is at the bottom with 13 percent. Generally, fewer women than men are willing to run for office.

DICKINSON, WILLISTON AND MINOT are designated as hub cities and funded by money coming from the oil production tax. The money is essential for debt retirement and new infrastructure to match population growth. Minot is facing debt that has increased about 165 percent in the past four years. Per capita debt of $989 in 2012 grew to $2,611 in 2016.

WHERE ARE FATTIES? No problem spotting them -- go straight to the adjoining states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama where 35 percent of adults are obese. ND has little to brag about -- its 31 percent rate (up from 20% in 2000) makes it the 17th highest state. Colorado (20%) and other western states are the least obese.

NDSU PRESIDENT DEAN BRESCIANI has supporters Columnist Mike Jacobs is not among them. Bresciani is a finalist for the presidency of Ohio University. Jacobs said, “My hope is that Bresciani gets the Ohio University job. It's a bigger school, the better to accommodate his considerable ego and to employ his considerable ability.” Bresciani told the OU hiring committee that he had been successful "in spite of an unusual if not atypically challenging media environment." He blamed bad press for some negative accounts.

NOT A GOOD IDEA ND lawmakers have proposed legislation reducing the responsibility of motorists who strike protestors blocking traffic. The proposal arises out of the pipeline protests. The proposed law would seem to encourage “cowboys,” yet a poll indicated the law is favored by a majority of Nodaks.

NEW REFUGEE RESETTLEMENT could be temporarily banned by individual ND cities if determined to have an adverse impact. The ban is the subject of a proposed bill that would also give the governor power to make such a ban statewide. Somali leaders in Fargo oppose the legislation.

DENTAL THERAPISTS could provide routine dental care in underserved and rural communities under a proposed bill. Minnesota has such a law. What do ND dentists think? They say “No way!”

ENROLLMENT TRAP For much of the last hundred years ND population changes have been gradual. Perhaps that’s a reason schools are funded based on last year’s enrollment. Schools with rapid enrollment increases are trapped by this formula. During the last year enrollment in W. Fargo increased by 400 students and the school district faces a $4 million shortfall unless legislation changes.

MAD AT FARMERS As the number of farmers steadily decreases, the percentage of people with little or no identification with agriculture increases -- even in ND. Agweek writer Jonathon Knutson says that because of that disconnect farmers face a public relations challenge exemplified by the shelterbelt issue. Shelterbelts, the rows of trees that characterize the ND landscape, are aging and dying. Removing the trees makes economic and agronomic sense, but city dwellers see piles of ripped-up trees and are upset with farmers.

SMALL TOWN GIRL The obituary of Edgeley native Shirley Peterson (80) describes a remarkable life that fell into distinct phases. The first 18-year phase seemed relatively quiet -- she began teaching in Harvey in 1957, married, and moved to Fargo schools while acquiring degrees at Moorhead State. The next phase was explosive: It started with a public affairs position with the Greater ND Ass’n and, next, director of ND Job Service.

PETERSON rocketed to Wn. D.C. in 1984 as Commissioner of Labor Statistics, then to L.A. as a Northrop executive, and then formed an international consulting firm, Peterson & Associates. The obituary mentioned a few of her many awards and honorary positions before simply saying, “This list could go on page-after-page-after-page.” Her final phase began with retirement in the Palm Springs area in 1999. Shirley gradually spent more time in ND, returning to Fargo full time in 2013.

NOT A WALK IN THE PARK Last week, I mentioned how African refugees from the Twin Cities attempt to walk into Canada near the Emerson, Manitoba, border crossing. Two men from Ghana nearly froze to death attempting to cross from ND. This week, a Nigerian family, including three children, was rescued during an attempt to cross near Portal, ND. They received emergency medical treatment for injuries sustained from severe cold.

THE MINNEAPOLIS FED PRESIDENT announced an effort to tackle economic disparities. He said, that despite Minnesota’s vitality, differences between whites and blacks in income, unemployment, test scores and graduation rates were among the most extreme 20 percent of states. He said the finding was unexpected and unexplained. The Federal Reserve will produce a series of white papers on the topic.

WAS OBAMA’S PRESIDENCY SUCCESSFUL? A Forum poll asked the question. Of 2,400 responses, 1,390 said no, while 920 said yes -- roughly a 3:2 ratio.

DAKTOIDS: You betcha. An actor in the third season of “Fargo” says the regional accent is the hardest he’s ever done . . . Taxable sales and purchases in ND’s third quarter of 2016 were 20 percent below the same quarter of 2015 . . . A geography professor in New York has calculated a new center for North America -- guess where it is? The town of Center in Oliver County, ND . . . Injury fights around downtown bars in Fargo rose to a 5-year high in 2016 . . . Airline boardings in ND decreased 11 percent from 2015 to 2016.

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