There’s plenty of examples of wasteful spending here at home with the North Dakota Legislature. Whether it’s the large amount of dollars going towards the sacred cows known as Health & Human Services and K-12 , the likely unconstitutional ethanol subsidies , ridiculous state-sponsored North Dakota tourism , or numerous unnecessary agencies ; our Legislature needs to cut more and altogether eliminate some.
Anyone that has paid attention the last couple of years is aware of the state’s budget issues following the historic Bakken Oil Boom . In early 2016, Governor Jack Dalrymple ordered budget cuts to rectify a $1 billion shortfall. Later, in August 2016, Dalrymple called a special session of the North Dakota Legislature to deal with a $310 million budget shortfall.
Last session, the spendthrift North Dakota Legislature kicked the can down the road by focusing too much on raiding reserve funds and not enough on cutting spending. They actually raided these funds to the tune of $791 million — which House Minority Leader Corey Mock (D – District 18) pointed out was 20% of the entire budget. This left a projected ending fund balance of just $50 million.
Just last month, KFYR-TV reported that there is a projected $400-$700 million shortfall for the 2019-2021 biennium. Will anyone be surprised to see a move to raid the Legacy Fund in the 2019 session– which, as of today, contains over $4.1 billion ?
As you can see, North Dakota needs to do a better job of getting its fiscal house in order. So, when I saw the headline about the plans to build a $100 million Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library in Western North Dakota, I was immediately curious about the role the North Dakota Legislature was playing in its construction. And sure enough, I found my answer:
“The foundation has collected $2 million in private donations to date. Goulet said the state Legislature has made $10.5 million available for the complex , and the city of Dickinson has promised a $3 million contribution.”
I suppose this should come as no surprise if we consider this… The non-profit Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation was established in 2014 for the “planning, building, and overseeing operations of the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library” and includes as one of its board members Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner (R – District 37).
According to the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation website , that figure is actually $12 million– appropriated during the 2013 Legislative Session. But I digress. This means between 10% and 12% of the total project is originating from taxpayer dollars. And why? Such projects should be the responsibility of private individuals and/or private organizations, not the government.
Now, to be fair, North Dakota’s fiscal health was a bit different in 2013. But that’s no justification for inappropriate spending. The problem here stems from an improper role of government.
Foundation CEO Wally Goulet told the Bismarck Tribune that up to 80% of the funds necessary for the project will come from those outside of North Dakota. Isn’t it possible for such a project to experience its own budget reduction in an effort to complete the 27 acre project without taxpayer money? Either that or raise a larger amount of private funds to maintain the $100 million price tag?
Personally, I don’t care how much the project costs. Whether it’s $100 million or $100 billion, it doesn’t matter to me– so long as taxpayers aren’t footing any of the bill. At the end of the day, if private funds aren’t sufficient, then there obviously isn’t enough of a demand for the project. And if that’s the case, it either needs to be scaled back or eliminated altogether.
Budget shortfalls, raiding reserve funds, and whispers of raising taxes are to be expected when we allow our elected leaders to unnecessarily spend taxpayer dollars– not to mention when it’s done based off of projections . We need to demand better.
The North Dakota Legislature’s part in building the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library is just one more example of money that shouldn’t have been spent.