Currently viewing the category: "Energy"

Second verse same as the verse. A little…. You remember the song, and I don’t mean to be repetitive in my comments, but I just have to say this. Although it is not a great amount the legislative forecast at the end of April is off by even more than it was last month.

In total the amount received at the end of April is nearly 9% more than forecast. Last month that figure was 7.1%. The error is nearly 30% more than last month.

You might also remember that OMB said that a lot of the problem would be solved when income tax payers, especially the corporate, sent their final tax reports in and corrected for over payments they had made. Last month the corporate income tax collections were about 42% larger than the projections. This month that figure is about 39%. That is not much. The difference for the individual income taxes is less than 2%.

In sum, individual tax collections are nearly 36% larger than projected collections, and corporate nearly 39% larger. That is a lot.

The only account that is even close is sales tax collections. That is a peculiar account to be close given North Dakota’s still booming economy, and then to miss the income taxes by so much.

Remember, both income taxes were changed and state sales taxes remained the same. Seems to me didn’t know how to adjust for changes to the income tax, both corporate and individual.

Finally, I will note again, and hope those in charge of preparing and voting on the next bienniums budget, keep in mind these continuing errors. If not, when the economy, even the growth in the economy, slows down we will find the North Dakota budget in deficit. With the total receipts being only about 9% greater than the projections income would be about $5 million dollars short if the two income tax accounts had been correct just to this point in the biennium, or $12 million at the end of the biennium if the North Dakota economy stays like this. We easily could handle that, but if it continues through the time that will amount to a significant amount-something unnecessary.


We are not there yet. At least we weren’t in February. Of course in the depths of winter, one of the worst winters in a long time what do you expect, but boy is this country lucky. Just think of all the American men and women who are alive today because of The Bakken, oil and gas.

I just read recently that America will reach a point of being a net exporter of oil. Just think of those long lines at the gas pump. Think of all the articles, the dire articles that were written about our future. Yes, others will gain as well, and some of them are not too nice, but with the proper leadership, well things are looking good again for America.

That doesn’t mean we can not be concerned about global warming, or at least studying the science to see if it is true. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t design safe pipelines, or tank cars. But just think of how much better the American economy is today because of fracking. All those railcars, all those pipes, all those people employed. All that money including in our taxes. Especially what we are setting aside for our children and grandchildren, even great grandchildren.

What will they write about us in the books a hundred and two hundred years from now.

So, here is the current data. Now it will get interesting as we go into the summer.


Here is the most recent employment/unemployment data for the northern plains. As always at this time of the year the data is a little later than normal because this is the time that North Dakota’s Job Service verifies the statistics from the past year.

While I only show year ago comparisons for North Dakota the employment picture improved for all four states in the northern plains. Of course North Dakota has the greatest percentage improvements because the economic growth it is continuing to enjoy. However, I would expect that as the oil patch continues to mature and the farm economy continues to slow down North Dakotas figures will become closer to its neighbors.

Minnesota, with the largest economy in terms of all measurements has had a very strong recovery. The one thing to point out for all the states is that not only are the employment percentages figures improving but the numbers are even better than the improvement would indicate. That is because the percentages are always based on the number of people looking for work and when the recession was at its worst many who were no longer eligible for unemployment payments simply quit looking for work which they had decided was not there. Today with the improvement in the economy many have come back into the labor market.

Let’s hope this is a long term trend.


Normally we think that the airline data for February is sort of ho-hum. But this year there is something to comment on at least. That is, the total boardings for February exceeded 100,000 passengers. That is the first time that has ever happened, and it is a substantial increase from as recently as five years ago.

Of course the weather maybe had something to do with it. People wanted to get away this winter. But the main reason, the big change for North Dakota is oil. Oil has changed North Dakota in ways that we could not have imagined even those five years ago. North Dakota is a mainstream and highly important state of the U.S.

Just think how what has happened here has lessened the impact of the recession. Remember, it is not just in this state, but it is all the industrial production that took place across the United States because of the Bakken. Building all those pipes, all the airline trips, even all the extra calories consumed in the United States because of the hard working people.

As for my comments, not much different than last month. Minot again is down because they are post flood activity and Williston has a lot more flights than two years ago. So too Dickinson.

Devils Lake and Jamestown no longer have airline service until this summer, and we still exceeded 100,000 passengers.

Now we need at least another month to see what depth the economic change will take. Let’s hope our politicians provide the leadership this country needs.


In Grand Forks and in several other cities in North Dakota the March city sales tax payments are down considerably from January and February. And then while the town is much smaller Devils Lake is even up a little and after being down for several months in a row, Minot is up, and by a lot. Across the state it is a mixed bag, and after this hard winter, difficult to assess.

I am not sure if we are seeing the beginning of the slow down in North Dakota that many of us have been expecting, or if the January and February payments were made quicker and now the adjustment for all the Christmas spending is over and it will take another two months or so for us to see the real trend for 2014. Both year to date and the 12 month rolling data are still positive.

There were some good signs in Grand Forks. Some are worried about the Canadian dollars relation to the U.S. dollar not attracting Canadian traffic, but the motel rooms and the restaurant and lounge quarter cent sales tax don’t support that theory, at least up to this point. Again this month I don’t have all the motel tax I want, but what we do have suggests traffic is at least as good as last year.

Grand Forks need to remember also that they should just not rely on Canadian Traffic. Now with all those new good class motels that the Convention and Visitors Bureau needs to work with places like the golf courses, the curling clubs, baseball clubs, etc to attract people to this city all year round. They can’t just wait for the Canadians. The Chamber and the CVB, which has always done a good job, need to be even more aggressive. The taxpayers of this city with the facilities like Aurora, and the University have all done a lot to attract people. Now they just need to be even more aggressive.

So, for now lets see if the city goes after those things. Lets also see if the oil patch business that has come from here stays here. There is no reason that done properly that won’t be case. There is no reason to let it go to others. It is time for some to earn their pay.