John Dorso: No Is A Difficult Word When You're Spending Other People's Money

Two weeks of the legislative session have come and gone without much excitement.  There might be an issue or two that have sparked some interest but as usual things are pretty slow.

One issue that had my interest was the situation surrounding the SBHE board appointments.  I believe that was as good of result as one could expect.  The real issue still isn’t resolved.  The governance of the university system has been a mess for decades even though some would like the voters to think the latest faux pas’ were just some recent problems.  That is totally untrue. Many of us can give you chapter and verse on how the college presidents have jerked the board around going back to the 1990’s.  I may not have been totally on board with the proposal that was put on the ballot but I do think Maj. Ldr. Carlson was on the right track.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#000000″ txt_color=”#ffffff”]”If you truly want a system that can meet the needs of students as we move through this century the present governance system has to be scrapped. … The longer the governor and the legislature take to find a solution to the problem will only serve to make the change much more expensive and painful.”[/mks_pullquote]

If you truly want a system that can meet the needs of students as we move through this century the present governance system has to be scrapped. The present governance model has to change if you expect the system to undergo the metamorphous that higher Ed will eventually suffer through.  The longer the governor and the legislature take to find a solution to the problem will only serve to make the change much more expensive and painful.  Some of us have ideas on how things could change but it seems like the voters are still not convinced something has to be done.

Although there were a lot of people at the hearing in support of the pre-school bill I still think it is a terrible idea.  Every time bills such as these that purport to be a blessing for children come before the legislature it becomes difficult for legislators to say “no”.  If at any time a “no” is in order it is when crude oil has fallen below $50.00 a barrel.

This is no time for the state to be funding an additional ongoing expense that over time will suck up more of the general fund budget.   If this were the end of the session where the reality of the tight fiscal affairs the state is facing were in full view legislators would run from the issue.  I hope they are smart enough to put this one to bed before it bites them at the end of their deliberations.  If any bill carries a fiscal note such as this one the best thing you can do for the taxpayers is to defeat it now.  The message should be loud and clear that the legislature isn’t going to dig a deeper fiscal rut then what they are all ready facing.

[mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#000000″ txt_color=”#ffffff”]”The governor may say or even think that with the present extra capital on hand that the state can weather the storm.  I would say that is wishful thinking.”[/mks_pullquote]

Which brings me to the monster gorilla in the back ground?  I hope the reason we are not hearing much about the fiscal affairs of the state from the leaders and governor is because they are trying to figure out how to deal with what could become a real serious issue if the present trend on oil prices, therefore production, continues.

The governor may say or even think that with the present extra capital on hand that the state can weather the storm.  I would say that is wishful thinking.  Any increase in spending that carries over in to future bi-enniums should be carefully scrutinized.  OPEC (Saudis) is going to make us feel the pain long enough to get the result they want which is a drastic reduction in production.  I don’t believe from the rhetoric they are using they will change course until the market sucks up the present production and causes oil prices to rise.  Most oil people I talk to think we are in for a long time until the Saudis get their way. It isn’t the first time they have played this card and they know full well how to play the game.  When North Dakota makes the national news as being in trouble for its reliance on oil production you should know an ill wind is blowing.

As I said many years ago to the Republican caucus “no” to spending is a difficult word when you are dealing with other people’s money but you have to learn how to say it.

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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