Burgum sees shared interests with new Minn., SD governors
BISMARCK — New governors for Minnesota and South Dakota took office this month, presenting new relationships for North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum on shared interests.
Republican South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem was sworn in Jan. 5 and Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, took office Jan. 7.
Both are former members of Congress who successfully sought their states' governor's seat in November as their predecessors marked their final term.
Minnesota and South Dakota each bring a key issue to their interstate relationship with North Dakota, according to Burgum.
With Minnesota, Burgum pointed to the $2.75 billion Fargo-Moorhead area flood diversion project, for which the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources recently granted a permit, before former Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton left office.
Burgum and Dayton served on a task force to study engineering aspects of the diversion: "Largest infrastructure project in the state," Burgum said.
Meanwhile, North Dakota and South Dakota share two tribal nations that straddle the states — the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate.
Burgum said he, Noem and their Indian affairs officials have considered planning joint meetings for after North Dakota's 2019 legislative session for the governors to visit the reservations.
"I think that would be something we'd love to try to put together and work with them," said Burgum, who recently installed the flags of North Dakota's five tribal nations outside of his office in Memorial Hall in the state Capitol, which he announced Jan. 3 in his State of the State address.
The governor also said he had a chance to congratulate Noem and Walz each after their victories in November.
Jim Ogsbury, executive director of the Western Governors Association, said Burgum will welcome more new governors when he becomes WGA chair in June at the group's summer meeting in Vail, Colo. Eleven governors within the WGA's footprint are newly elected.
"I think we're going to lean on him quite a bit to help welcome people like Gov. Noem," Ogsbury said.
WGA is a bipartisan group of governors of 20 states — including the Dakotas — that focuses on policy development through annual meetings, periodic conference calls and workshops.
"I think they have found that they have so much to gain from working together across state lines and learning from each other," Ogsbury said. "That's one of the reasons they use the WGA really as a forum to learn about what's coming around the curve and what kind of threats they're facing and what kind of opportunities they have."
North Dakota is expected to host WGA's annual summer meeting in 2020, Ogsbury said.
Burgum also said he looks forward to seeing Democratic Montana Gov. Steve Bullock — chair of the National Governors Association — when the group meets in February in Washington, D.C.