The North Dakota Legislature is in the midst of a three day organizational session this week. The session opened Monday and will conclude today. The regular 2019 Legislative Session is set to convene on January 3rd.
Aside from the organizational session itself, North Dakota’s Democratic lawmakers held a press conference yesterday to lay out their priorities for the upcoming session. With things like state employee pay raises, workforce development, public services, and increasing education funding, we can really sum up their priorities with one word— spending.
There’s not a whole lot of Democrats in the North Dakota Legislature. I’m not trying to be rude, but there’s only 25 of them. Out of 141 legislators, that’s not exactly a minority with the ability to wield political power. The problem is that I’m not so sure that it matters. With priorities like those they talked about yesterday, I’m not convinced they’ll have too much trouble getting a lot of what they want. After all, Republicans don’t exactly have a stellar record when it comes to spending either.
Governor Doug Burgum has already expressed support for raising the pay of state employees. And three Republican lawmakers are planning legislation to do just that. Former House Majority Leader Al Carlson (R – District 41) expressed at the conclusion of the 2017 Legislative Session that they had cut everything but K-12 and Health & Human Services— the sacred cows of the North Dakota Legislature. And the cuts that did take place were because of a downturn in revenues, not because there was an overwhelming desire to make them.
We still find ourselves in what some are calling a “budget crunch”. Earlier this year, Governor Doug Burgum called upon agencies to trim their budgets even more. But when I consider the past spending and the reluctance to cut — together with spending ideas from people in both parties leading up to the coming session — I’m guessing that Democrats will pretty much get what they want.
Before an increase in spending takes place for anything, I think those advocating for such should have to prove outcomes of how throwing more money at something improved it in the past. Take K-12 for example. From 2006 to 2016 the State increased its funding levels from 47% to 73.3%. Overall funding nearly doubled— while enrollment increased by just less than 13%. Have the taxpayers and “the children” got their money’s worth? Take a look at your school district’s proficiency levels and answer that question for yourself. You can see those at DPI’s new Education Dashboard.
Unfortunately, these things happen when we have too many Republicans who just aren’t as Republican as they should be. I welcome them to prove me wrong in the 2019 Legislative Session. Please.
(Note: Governor Burgum’s Executive Budget Address will take place today — Wednesday, December 5th — at 10am. You can view it live by going to https://www.governor.nd.gov/.)