It sometimes seems like a rarity, but common sense appears to have prevailed with the North Dakota Legislature. According to reports, leadership has chosen not to reconvene in an attempt to override some unpopular vetoes by Governor Doug Burgum.
Last month, the 65th Legislative Assembly adjourned on the 77th day of the 80 day constitutionally-mandated maximum. That leaves three days to spare in case it is necessary to gavel back in to remedy pressing issues.
Well, it didn’t take long after the Legislature adjourned that Governor Burgum made some vetoes that left some legislators in a bit of a tizzy. The result was leadership looking at the possibility of coming back to the State Capitol in an attempt to override the unpopular decisions of the governor.
Chief among the vetoes was Governor Burgum’s decision to strike down $16.1 million in funding to about 1,600 non-oil producing townships– a free $10,000 each. These townships had grown accustomed to receiving such funds during the hay day of the Bakken Oil Boom. But those days are now gone. And with revenues way down, Governor Burgum put a kibosh to the funding and called it "arbitrary" and "inefficient" as a use of "scarce financial resources".
The governor’s decision was not really a surprise. He has repeatedly called for the need to reduce spending. And as a part of those calls, he has also said that local governments will have to tighten up their budgets too.
In the time since the vetoes, the question became whether leadership could garner up enough support to warrant reconvening. Something that every legislator I spoke with not only didn’t want to do, but said that they couldn’t envision happening. And they were right.
Governor Burgum may have had the upper hand in this showdown with his colleagues by virtue of the fact that they only had the three days to spare. With the possibility of other issues to deal with in the future, it seems that leadership didn’t want to risk using up their three days in a potentially failed attempt to override the vetoes. Something that would also leave them relying on the very governor they’re trying to override to call a special session if other issues were to come up that need attention.
While $16.1 million is a relatively small amount in a $13.6 billion budget ($4.3 billion of that is General Fund), it sure is good to see the spendthrifts get the smack down. Score one for the governor.