North Dakota state employee bonuses decrease in fiscal 2022

July 14, 2022 GMT

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota spent $3.7 million last fiscal year on bonuses for some state workers, which is less than half the record amount paid out the previous year.

The near 56% drop was due in part to increased publicity and criticism about the bonuses, said state Office of Management and Budget Director Joe Morrissette, North Dakota’s top budget writer.

Morrissette said agency heads appear to have approached the bonuses with “caution to make sure they are justified and necessary.”

Only about a fifth of nearly 7,800 state employees received bonuses in the past fiscal year, which ended June 30, according to records obtained by The Associated Press through an open records request.

The bonus program was approved by the Legislature in 1999 in an effort to reward, recruit and retain employees for hard-to-fill state jobs. In the following two-year budget cycle, only $20,000 was paid throughout state government.


Nick Archuleta, who heads the public employee union, North Dakota United, said the bonuses aren’t fair because not all agencies choose or are able to give out the bonuses. He also said it’s bad for morale.

“Even some people who got (bonuses) felt a little bad for other people who deserved them but didn’t get them for whatever reason,” he said. “We have always maintained if you pay people adequately, you don’t have to pay out bonuses.”

Archuleta said state employees typically are paid less than private sector workers with similar education and experience.

Morrissette, the state’s top budget writer, said the bonus money must come from an agency’s existing salary budget and agency heads are given discretion on how to spend it.

Although some lawmakers have criticized the bonus program in the past, no legislation has surfaced to stop or amend the law that authorizes them.

Historically, the bulk of bonuses paid come from agencies in the governor’s Cabinet, records show. Thirty-five of the state’s 53 agencies participated in the bonus program in fiscal 2023.

Gov. Doug Burgum has defended the program, and has routinely given his staff bonuses since taking office in 2016.

However, records show the Republican governor did not approve bonuses in the past fiscal year. His office said in a statement that no bonuses were given “due to budget constraints with extra costs related to the departure of long-time team members.”