The seats in North Dakota’s 66th Legislative Assembly have barely had a chance to cool off and the rhetoric has already begun that lawmakers came out of the session with a “conservative” budget. The first to push the narrative appears to be our very own governor. According to KVRR:
“Governor Doug Burgum says North Dakota is making strategic investments in its future, funding priorities and delivering citizens a conservative balanced budget without raising taxes.”
Please, don’t take what I’m about to say wrong. I happen to like our governor. I believe he’s sincere and well-intentioned. But these claims are misguided— at best.
I get it that Governor Burgum is a businessman. But continuing to justify spending more than we should by crafting a narrative behind the word “investments” is problematic. To me, investments are things for Burgum to do with his own money. They involve a level of risk that’s simply not appropriate in government.
When it comes to the people’s (i.e. the taxpayers) money, government should be extremely limited in size and scope in an effort of “funding priorities”. Yet, it is here too that Governor Burgum has a differing opinion of what these priorities should be. Perhaps chief among them is the $50 million endowment for the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library & Museum— $35 million of which is borrowed.
A look at the Tentative Final Budget released by Legislative Council shows well over half a billion dollars worth of increases in spending from the General Fund— which totaled about $4.9 Billion. The overall budget is a record— $14.7 Billion. And yes, that’s a “B” in a both figures.
The idea that all of this is “a conservative balanced budget” would be laughable if it weren’t so serious. Let’s not forget, we’re talking about other people’s money here. But in addition to that, the state is constitutionally required to balance the budget. Meaning, whether a Republican or Democrat majority, they have to do it.
And let’s not forget, further analysis of the aforementioned Tentative Final Budget shows a projected ending fund balance for the upcoming biennium of $44.3 million. To put that into perspective, that’s just .009% of the General Fund. In short, they’re virtually spending everything they project to be coming in. I’m not going out on a limb when I say that’s not conservative.
If Democrats were the super-majority and passed such a budget, would the Republicans calling this “a conservative balanced budget” say the same thing about Democrats? I think you know the answer.
Governor Burgum and his counterparts in the Legislature will try to hang their hat on the statement that they balanced the budget “without raising taxes”. But let’s not forget that they sure didn’t do a heck of a lot to lower them either. In fact, when it came to income tax and property tax, they basically did nothing— despite the fact that they could eliminate them both if they wanted to.
The reality we’re facing is that the majority party of RINO’s has made a concerted effort to hijack the meaning of “conservative”. Much like the CATO Institute said about Republicans in Washington, DC a year ago, these establishment Republicans cannot claim to be fiscal conservatives. And the taxpayers of North Dakota shouldn’t allow them to get away with claiming that they are.
UPDATE: It was brought to my attention that Rep. Rick Becker (R – District 7) discussed this same topic in some depth tonight in a Facebook Live. I’ve updated the article to include that video below.
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So, how about that “conservative budget”?
Posted by Rick Becker for North Dakota on Monday, April 29, 2019