Legislature should use cautionIn 2013, being a legislator in Bismarck is a lot like a child on Halloween. After decades of governing one of the smallest states in the nation — both in population and the state budget — things have changed drastically in recent years.
By: Williston Herald, The Jamestown Sun
In 2013, being a legislator in Bismarck is a lot like a child on Halloween.
After decades of governing one of the smallest states in the nation — both in population and the state budget — things have changed drastically in recent years.
While most states are struggling to cut expenses to balance the budget, North Dakota has more money than lawmakers know what to do with.
While that is a pleasant change, it can also be dangerous.
Looking at the bills filed in the early weeks of the legislative assembly, it appears like it is a fun time to be a North Dakota lawmaker.
Thanks to millions and millions in new sales tax dollars and much more in oil taxes, the state coffers are flush with cash. And lawmakers are desperately looking for ways to spend it.
As bills are introduced, many call for new expenditures — $10 million here, $20 million there. It is clearly a time of extravagance at the Legislature, and members seem to be trying to make up for years where funding was tight.
While having extra money is better than the alternative, the extra cash is also a dangerous time for North Dakota.
Think about it: When was the last time a governor or president actually presented a budget that had real reductions in spending?
Our fear is seeing North Dakota’s expenditures climb to the point that one day it won’t be sustainable. We understand that in good times, governments like to spend. And there are things that need more money.
Sending money to the northwest region of the state to offset the challenges and new expenses of the oil boom makes sense. But spending that same money in portions of the state that have had little impact is troubling.
We urge the Legislature to use extreme caution over the next few months. While it may seem that the cash coming into Bismarck every day will never end, we promise it will.
It may take decades, but at some point the oil money will dry up, and what happens in North Dakota then will likely be determined by what legislators do today.