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North Dakota’s budget basics
According to the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO), North Dakota’s total expenditures in fiscal year (FY) 2021 were $8.4 billion, including general funds, other state funds, bonds, and federal funds. NASBO reported that total expenditures across all states in FY 2021 were $2.7 trillion, ranging from $4.7 billion in Wyoming to $512.8 billion in California.
Each state allocates spending and taxes differently among different levels of governments, and local governments often administer programs with state funds, so combined state and local government data show a more complete picture of individual benefits and contributions when comparing states.
Per the US Census Bureau, North Dakota’s combined state and local direct general expenditures were $9.1 billion in FY 2019 (the most recent year census data were available), or $11,953 per capita. (Census data exclude “business-like” activities such as utilities and transfers between state and local governments.) National per capita direct general expenditures were $10,161.
North Dakota’s largest spending areas per capita were elementary and secondary education ($2,396) and public welfare ($2,050). The Census Bureau includes most Medicaid spending in public welfare but also allocates some of it to public hospitals. Per capita spending is useful for state comparisons but is an incomplete metric because it doesn’t provide any information about a state’s demographics, policy decisions, administrative procedures, or residents’ choices.
North Dakota’s combined state and local general revenues were $11.2 billion in FY 2019, or $14,660 per capita. National per capita general revenues were $10,563. North Dakota uses all major state and local taxes. After federal transfers, North Dakota’s largest sources of per capita revenue from typical sources were general sales taxes ($1,736) and charges ($1,703), such as state university tuition and highway tolls. However, North Dakota’s largest source of per capita revenue in 2019 was severance taxes, which tax the extraction of natural resources such as oil and natural gas. North Dakota’s per capita severance tax revenue was $3,423 in 2019. Severance tax revenue is extremely volatile and can quickly rise and fall with the price and production of natural resources.
North Dakota’s politics
Governor Doug Burgum, a Republican, was elected in 2020 with 66 percent of the vote. The next gubernatorial election is in 2024.
Republicans control both the House of Representatives (80 Republicans to 14 Democrats) and Senate (40 Republicans to 7 Democrats), with veto-proof majorities in both houses. Control of the governor’s mansion and each house of the legislature gives Republicans a trifecta in North Dakota. Members of both the House and Senate serve four-year terms. Roughly half the legislative seats are up for election in 2022, and the other half are up for election in 2024.
North Dakota’s budget institutions, rules, and constraints
(Note: Some states have informal budget institutions that constrain overall spending growth or a specific expenditure’s growth.)
North Dakota’s current budget
Governor Burgum has not released a supplemental budget proposal (the state uses biennial budget) in 2022. He gave his state of the state address in February 2022.
Under the American Rescue Plan, North Dakota will receive $1 billion in direct state fiscal aid and $189 million in local government aid from the federal government. As of January 2022, North Dakota had spent part of its ARP funds on economic development, education spending, capital construction, and public health programs.
According to NASBO, North Dakota’s recent expenditure totals (general fund spending/total spending, including federal transfers) were:
FY 2021: $2.3 billion/$8.4 billion
FY 2020: $2.3 billion/$7.1 billion
FY 2019: $2.2 billion/$6.4 billion
For more on North Dakota’s budget, see
North Dakota’s economic trends
North Dakota’s per capita income (per the Bureau of Economic Analysis) was $65,544 in 2021, ranking 13th among the states. It was above both the national average of $63,444 and the Plains regional average of $60,113. The state’s median household income (five-year estimate) was $65,315 in 2020, ranking 19th among the states and above the national average of $64,994. North Dakota’s poverty rate was 10.5 percent in 2020 (five-year estimate), below the national rate of 12.8 percent.
Although North Dakota’s averages tell a story about the entire state, North Dakota is composed of diverse localities. For example, the city of Grand Forks’s median household income was $50,194, and its poverty rate was 17.9 percent; the city of West Fargo’s median household income was $87,674, and its poverty rate was 6.5 percent.
North Dakota’s unemployment rate has historically been below the national average, particularly following the Great Recession, and in recent years it has been among the lowest in the country. (See how COVID-19 is affecting state employment and earnings data.)
Unemployment rates (like other economic indicators) often vary significantly by race and ethnicity. However, North Dakota does not currently have enough information available for the Bureau of Labor Statistics to break down its unemployment rate by race. (This is preliminary data. See the 2020 data for a more detailed breakdown of state unemployment rates by race and ethnicity.)