After Controversy Under Dalrymple Legislation Would Cap Bonuses for Governor’s Staff, Appointees at $5000


New North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum speaks with cabinet members on his first day of office Thursday morning at the state Captiol in Bismarck. There are 17 cabinet positions with Burgum replacing a few of the postions with new members or with people filling in for the interim during the transition from former Gov. Jack Dalrymple's administration. 12-15-2016

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.

Dalrymple came under fire mostly from Democrats for the bonuses, but it’s Republicans who are backing legislation before the 2017 session which would cap bonuses for the Governor’s staff and appointees at no more than $5,000.

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Jeff Delzer and has six other Republican sponsors including House Majority Leader Al Carlson. Here’s an excerpt from the bill, which is HB1153 (see it in full below):

It will be interesting to see what the incoming Burgum administration makes of the legislation. While I’m sure Burgum, who campaigned as a fiscal conservative who is going to clean up the state budget and decline his salary clear out the “good old boys” network, is loathe to go on record supporting even the opportunity for big bonuses there is also a separation of powers issue at play here.

Will Burgum let the legislative micromanage bonuses for the governor’s office?

While I thought Dalrymple’s bonuses were tone deaf, and the amounts perhaps a bit egregious, I understood the rationale behind them. Frankly, I think the governor ought to be able to hand out what bonuses he’d like without the Legislature nit-picking. The Legislature sets the overall budget for the Governor’s office anyway, and if the bonuses get out of hand voters can hold the governor accountable.

Here’s the full legislation:

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