North Dakota Lawmakers Have Been Siphoning Funding From Firefighters for Decades and It Should Stop

Fargo Forum file photo

Firefighters stand outside of NDSU's Dunbar Hall in December, 2017.

MINOT, N.D. — We all know the threat of fire to our personal safety and our property.

Not so long ago, wildfires nearly burned down Medora, the jewel of North Dakota tourism. Thankfully, well-trained and equipped firefighters were able to turn the tide.

My point is that fire protection is important, but what if I told you that the state Legislature had been siphoning funding away from firefighters and into the state’s general fund for them to spend?

And that, along the way, they’ve probably been inflating what you pay for insurance and for other taxes?

North Dakota’s fire districts get their funding from many different sources, but one of the most important is a share of the state’s tax on insurance premiums. As one example, when you pay your homeowners insurance, the premium is taxed, and a portion goes into a fund managed by the Insurance Commissioner’s Office and from there onto the various fire districts.

This is a long-standing policy. The revenues flowed through it unimpeded from before statehood, in 1887, until 1985 when state lawmakers, starved for cash by the farm crisis, dipped into these revenues to make ends meet.

I’ll pass no judgment on that decades-old decision. Those were desperate times. The question before us, going on 40 years later, is why we’re still doing it.

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