Budget cuts becoming real for executive agencies

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BISMARCK, N.D. - The North Dakota Governor's Office and the Office of Management and Budget are meeting with all 55 executive branch agencies to talk money. The state is expecting to make cuts in anticipation of a projected shortfall in the hundreds of millions.

The Tax Commissioner, Ag Commissioner and State Auditor all met with the governor about how a cut would affect them. All three were clear they're ready to work with the governor and this process is just the beginning.

Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger says it's like Deja vu.

"When we led up to the 2017 legislative session, we didn't necessarily fill all the open positions because we knew we'd potentially have to make cuts,” said Rauschenberger.

They're taking the same approach with the open positions now. About 75 percent of his budget are salaries for his full time employees. State Auditor Josh Gallion is in the same situation. To meet the governor's 10 percent reduction recommendation, he would lose five of his staff.

"That's a significant cut to us, especially when you realize that we only have 56 including me to begin with,” said Gallion.

Joe Morrissette says OMB and the governor’s office have to ask the tough questions about agency programs.

"Is it still serving the purpose that it was intended, is it still serving the taxpayers? Is there opportunity to stop doing something and then be able to get by with less?” said Morrissette.

Doug Goehring says the Ag department is involved with more than 100 programs, including disaster relief for farmers and ranchers. Those programs cost 3 to 4 million dollars in 2017, an investment that saved farmers and cities.

"For every cow you get rid of, who is probably producing an annual revenue that one cow and a calf maybe $800, that has a $3,500 return back on main street,” said Goehring.

These agencies now have two months to get their budgets ready. Morrissette said these meetings will go through the middle of June. Unless agencies are granted an extension, budgets must be submitted for review by July 15.