Governor Doug Burgum’s former primary opponent for the Republican nomination for governor – Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem – wrote an opinion today that says Burgum overstepped his constitutional authority on some controversial vetoes. The opinion was written at the request of House Majority Leader Al Carlson (R – District 41) and Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner (R – District 37).
I wrote just last week about the awkward possibility of this happening. Awkward because Attorney General Stenehjem was Burgum’s former opponent for the governorship and was classified together with Rep. Carlson and Senator Wardner as being part of the “Good ‘ol Boy’s Club” in Bismarck. Should Carlson and Wardner now decide to attempt an override of the vetoes, it could certainly come across as political retribution.
But perhaps this isn’t the most ridiculous aspect of the entire situation. Stenehjem’s opinion comes on the same day as North Dakota Watchdog Network’s report that the state suffered yet another shortfall in May. This time to the tune of $13.5 million.
Just over a month ago I wrote about Carlson and Wardner’s biggest gripe with Burgum’s vetoes:
“Chief among the vetoes was Governor Burgum’s decision to strike down $16.1 million in funding to about 1,600 non-oil producing townships– a free $10,000 each. These townships had grown accustomed to receiving such funds during the hay day of the Bakken Oil Boom. But those days are now gone. And with revenues way down, Governor Burgum put a kibosh to the funding and called it ‘arbitrary’ and ‘inefficient’ as a use of ‘scarce financial resources’.”
So, here we sit with yet another shortfall and the majority leaders of both chambers are still griping and considering a challenge of the vetoes. Based off the $13.5 million shortfall in May, I’d say that Burgum’s $16.1 million line item veto of the funding for non-oil producing townships is a potential God-send for the new budget. They should be thanking him, not crying about it.
Think of this, the recent budget passed by the North Dakota Legislature projects just a $50 million ending fund balance. In the last two years the monthly shortfalls have averaged between $12 – $18 million. Given the fact that the trend seems to be continuing, we could be looking at serious problems just three to four months into the new budget.
Yet, here we sit with the Establishment Leadership essentially griping about Governor Burgum not spending enough. Burgum was right– we’ve spent too much and the “Good ‘ol Boy’s Club” desperately needs to be broken up. Only then can we stop the Establishment idiocy.