Marty Riske: Governor Dalrymple Should Appoint Ed Schafer to Solve North Dakota’s Budget Mess


Ed Schafer’s first day at UND as interim president. Jesse Trelstad/ Grand Forks Herald

North Dakota’s reliance on oil industry taxation and the related sales tax continue to deflate.  Just this week, the announcement that year-over-year quarterly taxable sales have dropped by a full third (33%) which shows us that the budget that has been built up over the last several legislative sessions cannot be considered a starting point.

We must start from scratch. We need leadership from the current Dalrymple administration to get that process started now. Simply handing this problem over to the next governor and only doing the bare minimum of tweaks via across the board cuts would be a disservice to the next governor, the legislature, and the people of North Dakota.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]Any budget team led by Ed Schafer will be taken seriously by the legislature.[/mks_pullquote]

That is why, today, I am calling on Governor Jack Dalrymple to immediately assemble a team of experienced policymakers even before the new Moody’s data comes in.

Such a team should, in a non-partisan manner, feature leadership that has experience in dealing with tough budgeting situations.  The first few names that come to mind for that leadership role are Former Governor Ed Schafer, his Former OMB Director Rod Backman; and State Senator Dave O’Connell (D-Lansford) who has served on the Budget committee for many years and is respected by members of both parties.

Any budget team led by Ed Schafer will be taken seriously by the legislature.

This budget team would be tasked with developing a short and mid-range budget plan to present as soon as possible to a special session of the legislative assembly, as well as creating the framework to make the 2017 regular legislative session as seamless as possible for the next governor.

Going forward beyond the 2017 regular session, to prevent getting in this position again, I am seeking legislative support for a Spending Evaluation Act.  Such legislation would include the following key features:

  • All acts at the legislature that create a new program, agency, or mandate requiring the expenditure of public funds shall sunset five years after authorization unless the Act has been evaluated as prescribed herein and the results of the evaluation are fully disseminated to the public.
  • All programs, agencies, and mandates in existence as of when this Section became law shall be evaluated as prescribed herein within a period of 10 years and the results of each evaluation fully disseminated to the public. All programs, agencies, and mandates shall be evaluated as prescribed herein every 10 years and statutes authorizing any program, agency, or mandate not so evaluated shall be null and void pending the evaluation.

Each program, agency, or mandate, whether newly proposed or already in existence shall be evaluated for whether it:

  • Creates clear and measurable net economic benefits that accrue generally to all citizens of the state, even in the absence of federal funding,
  • Interferes with citizens’ ability to engage in free enterprise,
  • Causes government spending to merely displace private spending and to what degree it does so,
  • Affects relative prices of goods and services and how it does so,
  • Clearly fills a necessary function that only government can fill,
  • Is likely to result in a financial obligation to the state that would necessitate a tax increase at some future time, and
  • Any other criteria the Government Review Commission shall deem appropriate, but which shall not preclude the criteria named above.

Speed is of the essence here.

When there is budget crisis, the need to react quickly is the order of this day.