Burgum Vetoes Bill Aimed at Restricting Bonuses

Back in late 2015 nearly $100,000 in bonuses handed out by former Governor Jack Dalrymple caused no small amount of controversy in the state. They went to five employees, including nearly $32,000 to Chief of Staff Ron Rauschenberger (who has stayed on on current Governor Doug Burgum’s transition into office).

Dalrymple’s spokesman Jeff Zent defended the bonuses to me at the time, arguing that they were needed to retain key personnel through the end of Dalrymple’s term (he’d announced at that point his plans for retirement).

“The rational is the governor is focused on seeing through some important objectives. To do so it’s important to retain the needed expertise of the staff that’s in place versus finding new and qualified staff for a job that has an expiration date,” Zent told me.

In response to the controversy Republican lawmakers sought to limit bonuses by passing HB1153, introduced by Rep. Jeff Delzer (R-Underwood) and co-sponsored by House Majority Leader Al Carlson (R-Fargo).

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]”The proposed restrictions upon this administration set forth in HB 1153 serve no constructive purpose,” Burugum says in his veto statement sent to House Speaker Larry Bellew (R-Minot). “This bill violates the constitutional exercise of executive authority to manage state agencies and to carefully budget appropriated resources. For these reasons, I have vetoed HB 1153.”[/mks_pullquote]

It passed by large majorities, 91-1 in the state House and 36-10 in the Senate.

But today Burgum announced that he’s vetoing the bill, making a separation of powers argument.

“The proposed restrictions upon this administration set forth in HB 1153 serve no constructive purpose,” Burugum says in his veto statement sent to House Speaker Larry Bellew (R-Minot). “This bill violates the constitutional exercise of executive authority to manage state agencies and to carefully budget appropriated resources. For these reasons, I have vetoed HB 1153.”

I’m not surprised that Burgum vetoed the bill. He told me he was opposed to it back in January.

“I think it’s a natural reaction” to the controversial Dalrymple bonuses, he said of the legislation at the time (audio).  But he also said the legislation amounts to “micro managing” or “little handcuffs” and could be an obstacle to his goal of reinventing state government.

“A lot of savings opportunities exist…when we can have a cross-cutting initiative,” he said, adding that leaving budgets for state departments with “no fungibility…creates another restraint on optimizing.”

The question now is, will lawmakers override the veto? This bill passed with majorities large enough to do it, and I have a feeling lawmakers might find this bill to be a good opportunity to get back at Burgum for all that stuff about the “good old boys club” in Bismarck from his campaign last year.

All the more so because of the subject matter of the bill.

Here’s the full veto statement:

[scribd id=343194366 key=key-ygj63Em6CD6EsszWmRxr mode=scroll]

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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