Budgets, murder top list of ND stories in 2017
Lagging oil and farm commodity prices prompted a massive drop in state revenue, making the downturn in the North Dakota budget the state's top story in 2017.
The budget shortfall prompted legislators to cut more than 300 full-time equivalent positions for the current biennium, a figure that excludes higher education, as state agencies were forced to tighten budgets. The Legislature approved $4.3 billion in general fund spending for the current biennium, down from a peak of nearly $6.9 billion in the 2013-15 biennium.
The ripple effect of smaller budgets impacted employees, services and programs throughout North Dakota.
Here are the other top stories from the year, as voted on by journalists working for Forum Communications Co. newspapers:
2 — In August, Savannah LaFontaine-Greywind, eight months pregnant at the time, went missing after visiting a neighbor in a Fargo apartment building. Brooke Lynn Crews pleaded guilty this month to murdering her neighbor and abducting her newborn daughter. Crews' live-in boyfriend, William Hoehn, also faces charges and is scheduled for trial next March.
3 — A historic drought crippled farmers and ranchers in North Dakota, prompting Gov. Doug Burgum to seek a presidential major disaster declaration. In August, Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring predicted the drought would have a $4 billion or more economic impact on the state.
4 — The North Dakota University System adjusted to budget cuts after legislators cut about $212 million for the 2017-19 biennium. In turn, NDUS shed the equivalent of about 481 full-time employees.
5 — In September, Cara Mund of Bismarck was crowned Miss America 2018. Mund, an advocate for Children's Miracle Network and Make-a-Wish, became the first North Dakota contestant to win the coveted title.
6 — After protests and legal battles nearly stopped the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2016, the controversial project received the green light with President Donald Trump's signature early in 2017. A few months later, oil began flowing through the pipeline.
7 — Carson Wentz, the former Bismarck and North Dakota State star quarterback, enjoys a record-breaking season for the Philadelphia Eagles in just his second season — before a knee injury ended it earlier this month.
8 — Making good on his campaign promise, Gov. Doug Burgum begins to take a new approach to state government, appointing several business-minded leaders to lead state efforts.
9 — The FM Diversion suffered a setback in September after a Minnesota judge halted the project since the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources had denied a permit. Burgum and Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton convened a task force, which agreed broadly this month to some changes.
10 — "Pro-white" activist Peter Tefft of Fargo attends an August rally in Charlottesville, Va., where a driver with alleged Nazi sympathies drove into a crowd of counter-protesters. Tefft gained notoriety on social media with his attendance and attempts to organize a rally in Fargo. His family denounced him for his views and Tefft has since been blocked from posting comments on social media sites for Tom Campbell, a Republican running for U.S. Senate.