The Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library & Museum is a done deal. As I wrote earlier today, the North Dakota Legislature did as expected and gave Governor Doug Burgum his library. In terms of legislation, all that’s needed now is for Burgum to sign it. There’s absolutely no question he’ll do that. After all, he’s the one who pushed the issue. And he wasted no time in thanking the Legislature for “seizing [the] historic opportunity”.
In part of his expression of gratitude to the Legislature, Governor Burgum said:
“By seizing this opportunity to transform our image of ourselves, the Legislature has honored a man who, by immersing himself in our rugged, beautiful and untamed Badlands, transformed himself into a bold and fearless leader whose later actions transformed our nation and world.”
“Transformed our nation”? Unfortunately, that’s true. But I don’t think it’s quite as positive as Burgum makes it out to be. As Rep. Dan Johnston (R – District 24) rightfully pointed out today in floor debate, things like land grabs, the income tax, and the expansion of presidential powers can be traced to old “TR”. They’re truly nothing to be proud of— at all.
In a sense, the fact that the 2019 Legislature approved the funding for the library is fitting. After all, Roosevelt wasn’t a limited government Republican and neither are the majority of those who voted to fund the edifice that will now honor him. Unfortunately, even some of those I typically consider to be the “good guys” lost their way on the vote today. They know who they are. And it’s disappointing.
The reality is that throwing $50 million at the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library & Museum is symptomatic of a much larger problem. I eluded to it already— we simply don’t have a fiscally conservative legislature.
Rep. Sebastian Ertelt (R – District 26) touched upon this earlier in the week when he revealed on Facebook Live that it’s estimated the overall budget will be increasing by about 20%. And let’s not forget, spending has been a problem for well over a decade now— all under the leadership of a Republican super-majority.
In a Budget Status Summary dated April 9th, Legislative Council listed specific appropriations bills with “major increases”. Among these proposed increases were Department of Human Services (SB 2012) to the tune of $226.3 million and the Department of Public Instruction (SB 2013) at an astonishing $286.4 million. That’s over half a billion dollars from these two departments alone. Is it any wonder some refer to them as the “sacred cows” of the North Dakota Legislature?
We shouldn’t be surprised though. After all, this is the same Legislature that voted to spend $5 million on a cactus greenhouse expansion for the Peace Gardens.
But say anything to the 2019 Legislature about relieving more of the burden on taxpayers, and too many just aren’t interested. Simply studying school choice? No way. Eliminate the income tax? Nah. Even studying the elimination of property tax? Not a chance. This is in spite of the fact — as Rep. Rick Becker (R – District 7) pointed out in a floor speech two months ago — that North Dakota could eliminate both the income tax and property tax and still be spending half a billion dollars more than our neighbors in South Dakota. No, none of this is acceptable to a majority of the North Dakota Legislature. Instead, they’re satisfied that our state is #1 in the nation for state and local tax collections. And giving themselves a raise is apparently the right thing to do.
So, how do we change all of this? How can we get Bismarck lawmakers to actually be fiscally conservative? I believe there’s only one way— we have to replace big government Republicans. Yes, I’m talking about challenging incumbents with candidates who will actually act like Republicans are supposed to.
If I’m not mistaken, overall there will be 46 seats up in the House and 23 in the Senate for the 2020 election cycle. Out of the 69 seats, only 8 of them are currently occupied by Democrats. Out of the remaining 61, we most certainly need to re-elect the minority of limited government Republicans. Yet, there’s still a lot of potential for change— if the right candidates will step forward. And that’s the key. Because sending the same problematic big government Republicans back to Bismarck in 2020 will only result in more of the same.
Make no mistake about it, giving a facelift to the Bismarck behemoth will be no easy task. Big government Republicans have had a stranglehold on the Capitol for a long time now, and they’re not going to go easily. They have to be removed. There’s simply no other way. Does this require stepping on toes? Absolutely. Does it mean ousting someone you might consider to be a “nice person” in favor of someone who will make more principled decisions? Yes. But it has to be done.
The great Thomas Paine once said:
“THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink… but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.”
Will you stand?
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