The snow has almost all melted, spring is in the air, and the North Dakota legislative session is almost over. These are all good things! There’s also cautious optimism that community banks might see some much needed regulatory relief with a new Congress and administration. While regulatory relief for community banking isn’t as high on President Trump’s priority list as we’d like, it’s at least in the top five behind healthcare, tax reform, immigration and transportation. The road so far, however, has been pretty bumpy with the at least temporary stalling of ACA repeal. Hopefully, regulatory reform for community banks has a smoother path. We’ll find out more later this month when we travel to DC for ICBA's Capital Summit.
Closer to home, the 65th Assembly of the North Dakota Legislature could wrap up by Easter. At least that’s legislative leadership’s plan. Doing so would save about 10 days of the 80 day maximum in case there’s a need to reconvene during the interim.
For the last couple years, the state has been chasing an ever-eroding revenue figure. I remember back to Governor Dalrymple’s budget address during the legislature’s organization session in December 2014. The revenue estimate at that time for the 2015-2017 biennium was in excess of $8 billion. We now know of course that the underlying assumptions of that forecast were grossly flawed as oil had already begun to tumble and ag commodity prices were sliding downward as well. The most recent revenue forecast delivered in early March now estimates $3.6 billion for both the current biennium and the 2017-2019 biennium. As you can imagine, budget issues have been the primary theme of this session and the pain is being felt far and wide across agencies and any and all incentive programs.
A mentor of mine once told me that “it’s never as good or as bad as it seems”. I guess that’s probably good advice to follow when you live in a commodity-driven economy, but the days of $100 oil and $7 corn sure seem a distant memory!