John Andrist: Like It or Not, the Job Is Finished


So long. North Dakota’s 2017 legislative session has ended. To the chagrin of many and at least some degree of satisfaction for others, they have all gone back home.

To do it they had to pass a balanced budget, and for the most part that’s what creates so much anguish in the final days of most sessions.

They did it by reducing the total appropriation from $14.2 billion in the present biennium to $13.6 billion.

More important they reduced the general fund appropriation from $6 billion to $4.3.

What’s the difference? The general fund is essentially what runs our state.

The rest is a complex mix of state, federal, and special funds for human services, education and infrastructure. For instance Game and Fish is funded mostly by licensing revenue. Workforce Safety and Unemployment assistance is from premium fees, etc. Special and federal funds also pay  part of road building and maintenance.

Another way to put it, the general fund is the truck and fuel we use to distribute the cargo it carries.

So why didn’t we just spend more of that rainy day money we put away when we were flush?

[mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]So why didn’t we just spend more of that rainy day money we put away when we were flush? This may surprise you, but they did.[/mks_pullquote]

This may surprise you, but they did. Transfers from the Strategic Investment and Improvement Fund will decrease its balance from $833 million to less than $200 million two years from now.

They also transferred a significant amount of the earnings from the Legacy Fund into spending.

Should they have spent more from those funds? That’s what the debate was all about. But it is important to remember that savings can only be spent once.

Chances are most of this isn’t very interesting to you. Most reporting and most public interest is vested in policy stuff, such as medical marijuana, gun laws, gay rights, and Sunday blue laws.

But money management is still the most important thing that happens during those busy four months every other year.

Try a grain of salt

I’m trying to learn how to take more things with a grain of salt, and making some progress.

For example, I’ve learned to take anything President Trump says with a grain of salt, and am comforted in the reality he isn’t doing everything he said he was going to do.

It’s also easy to take everything I read on Facebook with a grain of salt. Make that popcorn salt.

Now I’m working on taking everything I read, watch, and see in the media with a grain of salt.

I regularly read the New York Times. Like MSNBC, the Times cannot find one good word about Trump. Just like Fox News on the other side is a cheerleader. Oh yeah, throw in climate scientists too — especially the guy who said any family that has too many children is making our oceans rise. Would that mean making abortion an act of patriotism?

We are told over and over again that the White House is in disarray, because of dissension and infighting. Pass the salt.

I can take that with a grain of salt, because I find that to be more comforting than the Obama White House, where everyone seemed to march in lock step.

Your anger can hurt you

Here’s one you may have missed.

A Maryland man is accused of sending a tweet to a Texas reporter containing an animated strobe image, with the message, “You deserve a seizure for your post”. He is being prosecuted for cyber terrorism.

The FBI is involved, and asserts the reporter was an epileptic and that the cyber attacker knew a flashing light could trigger a seizure — and it did.

But here’s the real kicker. Another 90 tweeters copied and tweeted the same message, and are now defendants in a civil suit brought by the same victim.

For those 90 it is not likely they will be found criminally culpable, but the standards in civil law are much lower, and they could pay dearly in damages.

A lot of stuff people tweet and send on Facebook is really intended to hurt someone. They are treading on shaky ground.