Does Anyone Really Want Governor Jack Dalrymple To Write North Dakota's Next Budget?

My Sunday newspaper column was about Governor Jack Dalrymple and whether or not he’s checked out on the job. A lot of people think he has, including some Republicans as my column pointed out.

Yesterday in an interview talk radio host Scott Hennen asked Dalrymple if he has checked out (audio above).

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” said Dalrymple, adding that he’s been busy handling the 4.05 percent across-the-board state spending cuts he ordered last month.

But then he went on to say that he’s busy with something else too: Creating the state budget for the next biennium.

“Going forward our big challenge is going to be the preparation of the state’s next budget proposal,” Dalrymple said. “That’s not going to be done by political candidates this year. That’s going to be done by me.”

That may come as news to at least one of the candidates to replace Dalrymple.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]It’s not just that any incoming governor would want to set their own priorities. It’s that Dalrymple doesn’t seem to be in touch with North Dakota’s new, post-oil boom normal.[/mks_pullquote]

“I think the governor is going to be selected on June 14th,” Doug Burgum told me back in January. “Whoever gets selected, on June 15 you put together a team and start working with the Legislature. You don’t wait until November. In a world of relatively certainty after June 14 you have six months to work on it.”

That made a lot of sense to me when Burgum said it. Unlike in January, the Democrats now have a candidate for governor in state Rep. Marvin Nelson, but I don’t think anyone really believes that Nelson can win. So for all intents and purposes, Burgum is right. The June 14 primary, which will select the Republican candidate for governor, will also probably select who will be governor.

Are they going to want to be stuck with another budget from lame duck Dalrymple?

It’s not just that any incoming governor would want to set their own priorities, though whoever wins the election is under no obligation to follow the predecessor’s budget. It’s that Dalrymple doesn’t seem to be in touch with North Dakota’s new, post-oil boom normal.

His executive budget heading into the 2015 legislative session was so laughably pollyannish on state revenues that it still proposed a 12 percent increase in general fund spending. Ultimately the Legislature cut general fund spending by 12 percent instead, and even with that reduction Dalrymple was forced into those aforementioned 4.05 percent allotments so that he could raid and drain the state’s Budget Stabilization Fund.

Dalrymple says he’s not checked out. He says he’s still showing up to all the meetings he’s supposed to show up to and going through the motions.

That sounds like checked out to me. And maybe, given Dalrymple’s stewardship of state finances, that’s for the best.

In Dalrymple’s defense, the outgoing governor always creates a budget for the next biennium. That’s because of the timing of the state’s Legislative session, which is mandated by the state constitution to begin in January just weeks after the November election. But I think whoever is the nominee for Republicans – be it Burgum or Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem or state Rep. Rick Becker – had better have their own budget ready.

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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