Saturday, December 06, 2008

New York Times Baffled How a Conservative, Oil-Drilling State Isn't in Recession

A real head-scratcher. Let's see: They drill for oil, are a relatively conservative farming state and actually have jobs they can't fill.

So the Times considers this odd.
And as some states’ unemployment rates stretched perilously close to the double digits in the fall, North Dakota’s was 3.4 percent, among the lowest in the country.

“We feel like we have been living in a bubble,” said Justin Theel, part owner of a dealership that sells Toyotas, Dodges and Scions in Bismarck. “We see the national news every day. We know things are tough. But around here, our people have gone to their jobs every day knowing that they’re going to get a paycheck and that they’ll go back the next day.”

North Dakota’s cheery circumstance — which economic analysts are quick to warn is showing clear signs that it, too, may be in jeopardy — can be explained by an odd collection of factors: a recent surge in oil production that catapulted the state to fifth-largest producer in the nation; a mostly strong year for farmers (agriculture is the state’s biggest business); and a conservative, steady, never-fancy culture that has nurtured fewer sudden booms of wealth like those seen elsewhere (“Our banks don’t do those goofy loans,” Mr. Theel said) and also fewer tumultuous slumps.

As it happens, one of the state’s biggest worries right now is precisely the reverse of most other states: North Dakota has about 13,000 unfilled jobs and is struggling to find people to take them.
“Our problem is that everybody thinks that it’s a cold, miserable place to live,” said Bob Stenehjem, a Republican and the State Senate’s majority leader. “They’re wrong, of course. But North Dakota is a pretty well-kept secret.”
They obviously have good leadership. Consider their neighbors to the east in very liberal Minnesota are struggling mightily while North Dakota is showing a surplus. Go figure. Maybe the rest of the nation should listen to what they're doing right.
Just as state officials in Minnesota — due east of here — this week revealed a staggering $5.2 billion deficit, Gov. John Hoeven of North Dakota gathered with lawmakers at the State Capitol to talk, in part, about the $1.2 billion budget surplus — the result, in part, of increased revenues from oil, and a sum that is all the more astonishing given the size of the state’s total budget, $7.7 billion over the next two years.

Mr. Hoeven, a Republican whose party controls both chambers of the state legislature and who was re-elected last month with more than 70 percent of the vote, offered proposals few other states are likely to hear this year: $400 million in property and income tax relief, $130 million more for kindergarten through 12th-grade education, 5 percent raises for state workers, $18 million for expansion of a state heritage center, and so on.
Damn fiscally-responsible Republicans are making everyone look bad. Perhaps their GOP brethren in Washington should take note. Better yet, maybe it's time a guy like John Hoeven came to DC.

No comments: