Democrats Furious When One Of Their Own Breaks Ranks On Oil Tax Reform


UPDATE: This amendment was passed by the Senate committee on a 6-1 vote. All Republicans on the committee voted yes. The two Democrats split their votes.

Dating back to the 2014 campaign season when they were making political hay about “tax cuts for big oil” (they targeted Senator Lonnie Laffen in particular) North Dakota Democrats have invested themselves heavily in opposing any sort of tax reform benefitting the oil industry. When Republicans announced legislation to enact that sort of reform last week, Democrats mashed the freak out button.

They’ve been calling the proposal a “doomsday” and “nightmare” scenario. Which is kind of funny when you consider that, in 2011, this was a Democrat bill backed by none other than House Minority Leader Kenton Onstad.

But now it seems there’s some compromise on the bill in the works in the state Senate, and it has Democrat fingerprints on it. Senator Connie Triplett (D-Grand Forks) has co-sponsored an amendment to the bill which gives the oil industry a half point reduction on their top rate, and gives the state a 6.5 percent increase on the lowest rate (more on that here).

But it seems Triplett may pay a price from her caucus for trying to reach across the aisle to Republicans. Democrats just held a caucus meeting, and the buzz is that some – in particular Senator George Sinner (D-Fargo) want her removed from Legislative Management.

“Word is that George Sinner made a motion to remove Triplett from Legislative Council because of [the amendment],” a  Republican House lawmaker told me via text message.

“Apparently the Dems are so mad at Connie that they are talking about voting her off legislative management,” a Republican Senate lawmaker confirmed. “All because she was willing to work to reform terrible tax policy.”

Legislative Management is the 17-member committee which works in the interim between legislative sessions as a sort of mini legislature. It is an extremely influential committee and seats on it are typically reserved for experienced lawmakers.

Stripping Triplett of her seat would be a serious disciplinary action against her, though at this point it’s hard to tell if Democrats are serious about it or if this is just a lot of hot air from partisans caught up in their own hyperbole.