To those that follow state politics it’s no surprise, but the North Dakota Republican Party needs help. They’ve lost their way. Let’s remember that the "Grand Old Party" is supposed to be the party of things like constitutionally limited government, individual Liberty, and fiscal responsibility.
Only the party has largely drifted from the platform it espouses. This is evident by many of the candidates it endorses. But it’s also obvious in a letter sent yesterday by the party’s Executive Director, Dane J. Ferguson.
Ferguson praised the recent legislature for a number of things that really shouldn’t cause excitement for limited government folks. Things like increased funding to K-12 and social services, together with the misleading claim of "real and long term property tax reform".
As I wrote back in February, from the 2009-2011 biennium to the 2015-2017 biennium the Legislature increased K-12 spending by 80% from $1.3 billion to $2.3 billion. The 65th Legislative Assembly increased that by another $154 million. To put this in greater perspective, from 2009 to 2015 student enrollment increased by just 13%. Meaning the spending has significantly outpaced the number of students in the state.
Knowing that they wanted to "get out of the property tax business" by ending the 12% "buy downs", the Legislature decided to take on a two year pilot program where the state picks up the tab for county social services. This amounts to about $160 million. A far cry from the $350 million spent on the property tax buy downs last biennium.
The move to take over county social services seems calculated in hopes of softening the pushback as a result of ending the buy downs. The sad thing is that Ferguson and the NDGOP seem committed to trying to sell this as "real and long term property tax reform" when it’s not.
I will also remind you that this is the same Legislature that refused to pass a bill that would have allowed property owners to vote on any increases to property tax over 3%. It was also the legislature that in 2012 begged for one more chance to "fix" the property tax mess. Only to find themselves in 2017 begging to get out of it.
The letter also conveniently leaves out the fact that the Legislature drained key reserve funds this last session to the tune of nearly $800 million in order to balance the budget. A figure that makes up nearly 20% of the new budget.
Spending, entitlements, reluctance to make significant cuts, and a property tax shell game… for these reasons – and many more – our NDGOP needs an overhaul.