Do ND Taxpayers a Favor and Eliminate the Department of Commerce

State Auditor Josh Gallion’s department continues to work for the people of North Dakota in an effort to bring a greater degree of transparency to our state government. The most recent example of this was released yesterday.

As you can see, their Audit Report of the Department of Commerce shows procurement and contract issues. According to the report:

“The Department of Commerce circumvented procurement requirements related to the ‘Be Legendary’ logo and overall brand refresh. We found two temporary employment contracts were used to stay under the purchasing thresholds and continue the work from the original contract.

“These contracts should have been treated as one contract for services and bid appropriately following OMB procurement requirements. The total cost of both contracts was $87,162.50 which would require the Department to follow Level 3 procurement requirements.”

Gallion had this to say about the findings:

“Circumventing procurement laws and authorizing unsupported payments does not promote transparency and accountability but instead, undermines the public’s trust in its government institutions.”

Way back in January — at the beginning of the 2019 Legislative Session — we published an article highlighting an effort by Rep. Marvin Nelson (D – District 9) to actually ditch the awful new design in favor of having “a state logo contest” to develop another one. While the idea was very popular on the House side, the Senate killed it on a vote of 7 – 40.

It comes as no surprise then that Rep. Nelson chimed in yesterday on Facebook about the issue:

It’s also worth noting that the consultant out of Minnesota, who designed the new logo, has ties to Governor Doug Burgum. I’m not saying that rises to the level of scandal, but it sure doesn’t look good for our beloved chief executive— who championed the rebranding and doesn’t really seem to be a fan of our current State Auditor.

As mentioned by Rep. Nelson, this actually isn’t the first time Gallion has outed the Department of Commerce. You might recall that back in December of 2018, an audit revealed that the Tourism Department — which is one of four divisions that make up the Department of Commerce — had socked away 30 years worth of budget reserves. And this while continuing to seek more money each legislative session.

As to yesterday’s Audit Report, the Department of Commerce disputes that they did anything wrong in terms of violating state law. No surprise there.

There’s no doubt that Josh Gallion is doing a fantastic job— which has made him a rising star in North Dakota politics. It’s why we don’t think anyone in their right mind will challenge him in his bid for re-election. Yet, lost in the conversation surrounding yesterday’s Audit Report is something far bigger— Why do we even bother having a Department of Commerce?

Consider the four divisions that make up the department:

  1. Tourism
  2. Economic Development
  3. Workforce Development
  4. Community Services

According to their website, the stated purpose of the Department of Commerce is as follows:

“The North Dakota Department of Commerce works to improve the quality of life for North Dakota citizens by leading efforts to attract, retain and expand wealth. Commerce serves businesses and communities statewide through committed people and partners who offer valuable programs and dynamic services.”

It sounds like things that the private sector could handle all by itself.

No offense to him, but do North Dakota taxpayers really need to be paying $840,000 to Josh Duhamel to be the “face of North Dakota” in tourism ads?

Do we really need government to “coordinate the state’s economic development”? Isn’t that what a Free Market is for?

Do state agencies really need to partner with the “public sector industry to deliver specialized programs and services to assist in enhancing the workforce of North Dakota.” Can’t the private sector take care of this?

The list of questions could go on. And we haven’t even mentioned their “relocation effort” known as “Experience ND“, whose purpose is to help new “citizens live, work, do business and play in North Dakota.” Take a look at their FAQ section. It’s all questions that can be handled without the help of government.

Yet, every biennium the State Legislature just keeps on doing what they’ve been doing for so long— throwing tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer money at the Department of Commerce. The 2019-21 budget shows them with about a $100 million appropriation— over $40 million of that from the General Fund.

Thank goodness the Executive Recommendation for the 2019-21 budget wasn’t granted. Otherwise, they’d have had a $200 million budget— twice the amount that they got. And the General Fund portion of that recommendation would have been over $136 million.

I will forever remember the words of former House Majority Leader Al Carlson (R – District 41) in the winding up moments of the 2017 Legislative Session. Carlson — who served in 13 sessions — said this about the Department of Commerce:

“If some of you could go back in time, to the day we set up the Commerce Department, you would wonder what in the world has happened to it. And I don’t disagree with it– that its changed significantly since the day it was envisioned . And there was a lot of discussion on this floor about setting up another bureaucratic system. Well, if you listened to the floor debate, you figured out how bureaucratic it can be. Because everything in the world has been put into that and most of them involve giving money away.”(Emphasis Added)

We need to do the taxpayers of North Dakota a favor and eliminate the money pit known as the Department of Commerce.

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Sources:

  1. https://www.nd.gov/auditor/news/audit-shows-poor-oversight-led-procurement-and-contract-issues-department-commerce
  2. https://www.nd.gov/auditor/sites/www/files/documents/Reports/State/2019%20Commerce,%20Department%20of.pdf
  3. https://bismarcktribune.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/north-dakota-state-auditor-finds-commerce-department-circumvented-bid-process/article_3a43dde8-c573-5e4a-a2ab-f4e58780a14d.html
  4. https://www.theminutemanblog.com/2019/01/17/bill-seeks-to-change-north-dakotas-state-logo-again2/
  5. https://www.legis.nd.gov/assembly/66-2019/bill-actions/ba1457.html
  6. https://commerce.nd.gov/
  7. https://www.nd.gov/auditor/state-north-dakota-special-funds-performance-audit
  8. https://www.theminutemanblog.com/2019/10/09/nobody-in-their-right-mind-will-challenge-josh-gallion/
  9. https://www.ndtourism.com/
  10. https://www.business.nd.gov/
  11. https://www.workforce.nd.gov/
  12. https://www.communityservices.nd.gov/
  13. https://www.theminutemanblog.com/2017/11/20/the-state-should-not-pay-josh-duhamel-to-promote-north-dakota-tourism/
  14. https://www.experience.nd.gov/
  15. https://www.experience.nd.gov/live/FAQs/
  16. https://www.nd.gov/omb/sites/omb/files/documents/agency/financial/state-budgets/docs/budget/appropbook2019-21.pdf
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About T. Arthur Mason 693 Articles
T. Arthur Mason is a native North Dakotan who has spent nearly all of his life in the Peace Garden State. As the third of four children in Western North Dakota, Mason grew to appreciate family and the outdoors. Some of his fondest memories are annual deer hunts with family and friends. In his early teenage years, faith became a central part of T. Arthur Mason's life. He and the majority of his family attend church together on a weekly basis and find this a fulfilling aspect of their lives. Through the influence of his father, T. Arthur Mason became intrigued with politics. As a boy, he attended political events with his father and enjoyed the friendships that resulted as a byproduct of those political associations. As Mason grew older, he became convinced that the quote often attributed to Thomas Jefferson was true, "That government is best which governs least." Today, T. Arthur Mason enjoys time with his wife and children, an occasional hunt, and an increasingly active life on the political scene. This blog is the fulfillment of a dream to design a web site in the realm of politics and to advocate for the principles of Liberty and constitutionally limited government. On behalf of all those that contribute to The Minuteman, we hope you enjoy your time on the site and will share the message with others.