According to a press release which just dropped in my inbox this morning, a group of conservative NDGOP district chairs asked the candidates for the party’s gubernatorial endorsement to sign a pledge not to raise taxes or user fees.
Two of the candidates – state Rep. Rick Becker and Fargo businessman Doug Burgum – signed the pledge. The third candidate in the race, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, did not.
An image of the pledge the group sent me is to the right. Apparently Burgum signs his name just “Doug.” Which is kind of a rock star move, right? Like Bono or Cher or something.
Five district chairs were named in the press release including Paul Henderson of District 10 (in the NE corner of the state), Paul Mutch of District 19 (north of Grand forks), Chuck Walen of District 4 (west and southwest of Minot), Dennis Fred of District 14 (central district stretching from Rugby down to Pettibone), and Dennis Miller of District 15 (north of Devils Lake).
Also quoted in the release is District 10 state Senator Joe Miller who isn’t running for re-election this cycle.
“The Republican Party has long opposed tax and fee increases as a way to make up budget shortfalls,” Henderson said in the release. “When times are tough for the state, it also means times can be tough for taxpayers. While the state budget is in flux, it’s important that our state’s leadership look for ways to stabilize the budget without increasing the burden on citizens.”
“Delegates to the state convention deserve to know where their candidates stand on the biggest issues facing North Dakota,” Miller is quoted as saying. “Will tax increases be on the table or not?”
“Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem (Bismarck) did not give any response to the pledge,” the release reads. I’ve reached out to the Stenehjem campaign about that. So far campaign manager Nate Martindale hasn’t responded to a text or phone call. UPDATE: “Since his announcement on November 24, Wayne has been clear and on record that he will not support any tax increase as governor, plain and simple,” Martindale told me this morning. “Wayne does not need to sign a pledge, he has already pledged to the people of North Dakota at district conventions, debate, and in the media he will not support any tax increase.”
Stenehjem is on the record saying he won’t raise taxes. In fact, he told me that directly back in December in an interview.
“We’re not going to raise taxes,” he said.
Of course, this pledge is much broader than just taxes, and I wonder if any of the candidates can really say they’re going to stick to it.
Taxes are one thing, but user fees?
These guys are going to pledge not to allow an increase in, say, the entrance fee at state parks? Or the cost of a driver’s license?
I’m not saying those specific fee increases are needed, but who knows what might be prudent over the course of a four year term. I feel like we should be leaving that sort of thing on the table. Generally, I prefer user fees over taxes, and I’m not sure it’s a good idea to make some blanket statement about freezing them.
Here’s the press release.