At the end of October, I wrote about North Dakota’s interim Government Finance Committee being tasked with the responsibility to:
“Study the funding mechanisms and options available to the Department of Transportation, political subdivisions, and public transportation providers, for road construction, maintenance, other transportation infrastructure needs, and transit services.”
As I explained in that article, all signs seem to point to a proposal for the 2019 Legislature to consider raising the state’s Motor Fuel Tax– something that hasn’t been done since 2005. And to add insult to injury, their federal counterparts in Washington, DC may consider doing the same thing– something they haven’t done since 1993. Together, it seems that North Dakotan’s are being set up for a double whammy.
Last Thursday the interim Government Finance Committee met again to consider the issue. According to reports, the topic of toll roads and toll bridges came up . This led House Minority Leader Corey Mock (D – District 18) to say this:
“The fact that we were talking about toll bridges or toll roads, that’s frightening. I don’t think people realize that to close that gap, if we’re not able to do that using state dollars or federal dollars, that local jurisdictions, cities and counties might start looking for toll roads , and I don’t think that anybody wins in that scenario.” (Emphasis Added)
According to reports, other options are also being explored by the committee. But the problem as I see it is that they all involve additional expense to taxpayers. There appears to be no effort to dig into how efficient government is at spending the funds that already exist.
Forgive me for being skeptical, but revenues have increased significantly over the last ten years. In the 2005-2007 biennium, total collections were $160.8 million. In the 2013-2015 biennium, they were $461.1 million.
Before they can convince me that extracting more money from our pocketbooks is acceptable, how about they first prove that they’re wisely using what’s already been taken. That’s a great place to start.
And after the Legislature has done that, how about they start eliminating other waste in government? Oh, I don’t know… how about those ethanol subsidies that appear to be an unconstitutional transfer of taxpayer dollars from the Highway Tax Distribution Fund ? Or how about eliminating the Department of Commerce, which had a General Fund appropriation of $31.3 million for the 2017-2019 biennium? And there certainly must be room for cuts in the Health & Human Services budget one of the sacred cows of the 2017 Legislative Session – that ended up at $3.9 billion.
I can’t help but wonder if the talk of toll roads and toll bridges is simply being used as a scare tactic by Rep. Mock and others in trying to garner support for a tax increase? Perhaps. But one thing I know for certain is that in leaner economic times you don’t ask the boss for a raise. And having said that, the government shouldn’t be asking us for more either.
Cut, cut, cut…
1. https://www.theminutemanblog.com/single-post/2017/10/25/Will-North-Dakota-Republicans-Raise-the-Motor-Fuel-Tax-in-2019 2. http://www.kfyrtv.com/content/news/Toll-roads-possible-462670033.html
3. https://www.theminutemanblog.com/single-post/2017/11/13/Legislative-Council-Says-NDs-Ethanol-Subsidies-Might-Be-Unconstitutional 4. http://www.legis.nd.gov/assembly/65-2017/documents/17-0526-05000.pdf
5. https://www.theminutemanblog.com/single-post/2017/04/06/Carlson-Reiterates-Protection-for-the-Budgets-Sacred-Cows 6. https://www.nd.gov/dhs/about/