Gov. Burgum asks legislature to increase general fund spending

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BISMARCK, N.D. - For months, Gov. Doug Burgum was warning cut, cut, cut to the state budget. His budget proposal Wednesday, raises spending by more than $300 million. That increase would come in General Fund spending for human services, K-12 funding and state salary increases. Behavioral health initiatives would get a $20 million boost under his plan.

"North Dakotans balance their checking accounts and so should state government,” said Burgum.

Burgum made his message clear in his budget address on Wednesday.

"Working as one, being citizen-focused, bringing a growth mindset to our work, we can truly make a difference in the lives of those we serve,” said Burgum.

The governor proposed increases for state employees’ salaries, which they haven't had in two years. Lawmakers says they're encouraged, but add this is just beginning.

"I like his idea of revenue and spending, but we have to see how this whole process goes," said House majority leader Chet Pollert, R-Carrington.

"This is just the beginning, so we're at mile one of the long race throughout the legislative session and so the governor's proposal helps give us a direction,” said House minority leader Josh Boschee, D-Fargo.

Burgum also praised his wife Kathryn for her work with recovery and proposed more spending in programs aimed to help healing. The recognition was emotional for the governor.

"By sharing her lived experience, First Lady Kathryn is helping to eliminate the shame and stigma around the disease of addiction,” said Burgum.

The legislature stood and applauded the first lady.

When the legislature reconvenes in January, it will be up to them to pass bills that make his vision reality. There's more in the budget than we can cover in one story. So over the next few weeks, we'll be taking a deeper dive into some of the budget proposals.