The Democratic response to Governor Burgum's State of the State Address was delivered by Representative Ron Guggisberg, from District 11 in Fargo.
Guggisberg says as North Dakota's minority party, the Democratic-NPL Party reaches across the aisle to work on effective laws for the state. But he also says the party will continue to raise their voices in opposition when they feel things could be improved. And Guggisberg says the party does believe there are opportunities to do better.
For instance - Guggisberg says the opioid addiction crisis is getting worthwhile attention through Governor Burgum and First Lady Katherine Burgum's Recovery Reinvented Initiative. He says it puts a spotlight on the steps needed for recovery - but that these steps need to be made tangible. He says the Legislature had a chance in their last session to help - and they didn't.
"Behavioral health funding is something the Legislature has promised North Dakotans, but so far has failed to deliver. Behavioral health care in North Dakota is a crisis. It's a crisis of our own making, and it's one we failed to address in the last session. The bipartisan group proposal made adequate investments for evidence-based, cost-effective behavioral health programs. It was all but promised passage in the last session. But the majority stripped it down to just one percent of what we knew we needed."
Guggisberg says in the long run, avoiding behavioral health issues only costs more money.
He also says the Governor addressed his Main Street Initiative, and that Democrats support economic growth through strategic investment in all communities from rural to urban. But he says local funding cuts that serve political interests are the wrong approach.
"This puts pressure on local leaders to maintain basic services, and it puts community improvements out of touch. The Main Street Initiative is a worthy effort - let's begin by removing roadblocks and administrative burdens for local governments along the way. The Main Street Initiative can't simply be more band-aids that place the burden on local officials and drive up property taxes."
Guggisberg also says innovation in education continues to be a priority for North Dakota Democrats, as well as planning for the future when it comes to budget planning. He says much of the deep budget cuts made by the Legislature last session could have been avoided - and North Dakotans will see their property taxes increase as a result.