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Bakken Brings North Dakota Two Billion Budget Surplus; Time for Merger?

Larry "Statehood for Mexico!" Kurtz will love this.

The Bakken oil boom is putting a two-billion-dollar surplus in North Dakota's state coffers. Our northerly neighbor runs on a two-year budget, so that's a billion dollars a year. A billion dollars would cover 80% of South Dakota's state general fund.

Dakota TerritoryOur Governor, legislators, and lots of my West River neighbors are hoping that Bakken oil with seep south and enrich our state. But you know, if we really want a slurp of that shale-oil milkshake, why wait? Why not rejoin North Dakota to reconstitute Dakota Territory?

It's not secession. Recession? Decession?

Dakota Territory would have been one big happy state if Republicans hadn't seen a chance to smack Democrats for their recalcitrance in granting us statehood and double the number of GOP Senators this territory would send to Washington. Today's Dakota Republicans might relish the chance to have Republican Senators John Thune and John Hoeven square off against Democrats Tim Johnson and Kent Conrad. They'd have a chance to counter North Dakota's socialist-leaning electorate with South Dakota's larger corps of conservatives. And they'd have a chance to eliminate one entire state government! Dakota Territory could be a conservative's dream.

With a combined population of 1.5 million, New Dakota would replace Hawaii as the 40th most populous state. (Iowa would still be 30th, at 3.1 million; Minnesota would still be 21st, at 5.3 million.) With a combined area of 148,000 square miles, we'd jump over Nebraska, Minnesota, and Iowa and replace Montana as the fourth largest state in the Union.

So what do you say, North Dakota? Share the wealth? We can do this the nice way, with a joint committee and negotiations. Or Denny can put on his National Guard jacket and South Dakota can just conquer North Dakota. Ellsworth vs. Minot, SD Guards vs. ND Guards: who'd win that one?

Related Update 09:35 CDT: In a report issued last week, The U.S. Chamber of Commerce ranks North Dakota as the biggest future boom state. South Dakota makes #9 on the list of future boom states.


  1. Barry Smith 2012.06.22

    Maybe North Dakota should set up a fund and offer it's citizens an annual stipend similar to Alaska.

  2. larry kurtz 2012.06.22

    Fascinating: remember that in kurtz's tortured mind, the reservations would be counties in an additional non-contiguous state competing for resources.

    wish in one hand....

  3. Elliot Knuths 2012.06.22

    At least nobody can complain about a lack of consistency in terms of reliability on your site, Mr. Heidelberger. Consistency is very, very high, reliability very consistently low. Minnesota is the twelfth largest state, Montana the fourth, according to the link you provided, at least.

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.06.22

    How about this land shift, Larry: South Dakota takes over North Dakota, then recognizes the Republic of Lakotah? (Dang: but then Russell Means controls the Bakken. That defeats the purpose... ;-) )

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.06.22

    Thank you, proofreading department! Correction made. (I think that was the line I was working on when the Divine Miss K asked me to get her some wrapping paper. I should check to see what valuables she's wrapping that shoebox. Hey, where's my phone?)

  6. Bill Fleming 2012.06.22

    Cory, now that you've moved West River, it's time you learned a little something, broheem. We'uns out here in these hills basically don't even want to part of anything East of the Missouri, let alone no goll-dang North Dakota. (sfx: spitoon "ppptt-ding!")

  7. Bill Fleming 2012.06.22

    ...want NO part... not TO part... %$*& 'puter typin' *&$.

  8. LK 2012.06.22

    Dang it Bill, I swear it was Hills folk who frequently expressed the idea that there never should have been a North and South Dakota but rather an East and West Dakota.

    Wouldn't merging be the first step to creating a West and East Dakota? Merge and then secede.

  9. Michael Black 2012.06.22

    Much of that surplus is in trust funds. South Dakota also has significant balances in similar trust funds. Those monies are set aside for a reason.

    North Dakota runs on a two year budget. We need to work towards multi-year budgets in SD. We can then make slight adjustments to our spending as needed. A budget surplus is something ALL states should have instead of having to cut programs when the economy gets rough.

    Why stop at merging with ND? Why not get together with MN? I can say uffda all day long.

  10. Bill Fleming 2012.06.22

    (pppt-ding!) LK, by golly, yer might have a point there, pardner.

  11. Carter 2012.06.22

    I'm not a fan of the idea, personally. It's not the "combining states" thing so much as the Bakken part. Not only because it's horrifically environmentally damaging (much more than normal oil drilling), but (because of the environmental impact) I think it will only take a small, very short pull away from the oil industry for some major regulations to be put in place, which will really reduce the income the state will get, and then all we have is one state that's poor, instead of two!

  12. Bill Fleming 2012.06.22

    Wal, hell's 'fire, Carter. The ya go talkin' 'out regalatin' an' stuff jus' when it was startin' ta git interestin'. Tarnation.

  13. larry kurtz 2012.06.22

    The market will determine what survives or grows in the Bakken formation: expect oil speculators to manipulate how much earth will be scorched as they need nearly $100/bbl to capitalize on this ecocide.

  14. Chris 2012.06.22

    North Dakota has a really supportive and developed arts base...dare I suggest that its not just oil booming in the north, but their creative economy as well?

  15. Carter 2012.06.22

    Are the arts ever economically booming? Culturally booming, sure, but outside the occasional super-famous painter, and some portrait photographers, I don't know of too many artists who are much more than comfortable, economically. There certainly aren't enough of them to constitute an economic boom.

  16. Chris 2012.06.22

    I agree, more emphasis should be placed upon their collective impact and worth within a community or a region, how their activity and presence supports and fosters positive economic change and development...there's a reason why the areas where artists move in (often low rent, under developed, and neglected parts of a community) turn into economic engines, look no further than the creative development around 8th & Railroad in Sioux Falls this past decade.

  17. Chris E. 2012.06.22

    I've lived in Minot AFB for two years and Ellsworth was the first airbase my father served. Minot AFB has ICBMs and bombers to deliver the nukes. Ellsworth only has mostly bombers, but it also has nearby scenery and things to do besides get blitzed (Minot AFB is pretty much out in the middle of nowhere - it's not nearly as bad with Ellsworth). Depends on what you mean by "win."

    ND levies, and will probably continue to levy (our state defeated an attempt to eliminate it a few years ago on the ballot), an income tax regardless of oil money. I always got the impression that SD would rather roll over and die than do that. That may be a problem.

  18. D.E. Bishop 2012.06.22

    Arts are engines for economic growth. I've seen it happen in the MN metro. It starts with a developer repurposing existing buildings into affordable arts studios and apartments. The artists come. They buy groceries, fuel, clothing, and other needs in the community. The community in turn begins providing new options for needs and entertainment and other options.

    If you build it, they will come. Artists, just like other folks, usually like to live near others who are similar to them. There is inspiration to share, as well as expenses. And anyone feels good about a community and developer creating something just for them.

    BTW, even if the artists aren't fully self-supporting with their work, they usually get part-time jobs and still spend their money in the community.

    Here, of course, there are more artists, but that just means that SD would undertake such a development on a smaller scale.

  19. Bill Fleming 2012.06.22

    Don't forget, there are a lot of artists who are self-sufficient having done other things than make art. Like D.E. says, it's not so much what they earn, but what they spend, and how they draw other creative people to a community.

  20. Chris 2012.06.22

    Now, the next trick would be to convince our South Dakota leadership that the long-term cultural and economic value of the hills (much is which is driven and supported by tourists) is way greater than the short term gains of an oil boom, and that the lasting impact could not only hamper a sustainable and successful cultural economy that has revitalized the hills, but drive it from the region...any thoughts?

  21. larry kurtz 2012.06.23

    You guys are dreaming: Deadwood's May numbers are up because gas prices are down.

    Hill City is an illusory venue which anchors on the successes of Crazy Horse as some symbol of reconciliation: TÈŸašúŋke Witkó would be horrified to know that white people are destroying a mountain in his honor.

    The Hills were stolen from the very people for whom the growth of art would benefit and until the Black Hills Land Claim is settled expect very little visitation from progressives from other states and Canada.

  22. larry kurtz 2012.06.23

    Real estate sales are spiking in the northern Hills because white oil field trash is sucking it up. Dems: sell your ground and flee.

  23. Bill Fleming 2012.06.23

    Got yours sold yet, Larry? Where is it anyway? If it's close to Rapid, I might know a buyer.

  24. larry kurtz 2012.06.23

    My properties sold, Bill, 20A. on the Deadwood end of Whitewood Canyon that belongs to your old friend, Herb, is still on the market.

  25. larry kurtz 2012.06.23

    Bill: counsel your buyers to find ground out of the pine or that which has recently burned and is coming back in aspen.

  26. Bill Fleming 2012.06.23


  27. Daniel 2012.06.25

    Nothing like trying to ride the coat tails of your neighbor. I guess I shouldn't be surprised. If ND was smart, they would let that pool grow and run their state on the interest from it. They could remove many taxes that people pay and still make ends meet. Problem is, politicians are going to get their hands on it and spend it as fast as possible. Don't worry though, they will be drilling in SD within 20 years and we won't have a money problem either. The checks won't stop for a minimum of 150 years. I'd be buying up residential property in Buffalo SD and investing in possibly building more living spaces.

  28. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.06.25

    So now Dan's a geologist. Great. Actually, Dan's spouting mostly fantasy... as usual.

  29. larry kurtz 2012.06.25

    Yes, Halliburton is already showing up in county records buying up leases and property: be very afraid.

  30. grudznick 2012.06.25

    I won't be around to see it but I would be buying entire trailer courts in Buffalo if I could. I just can't get out and water the lawns and fix broken water lines in the winter any more. Mr. Kurtz, Buffalo is where the new commercial boom in laundromats and Martinizing shops and those C-stores that are all the rage.

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