On Television: Slow Down The Oil Boom?


graph-3Chris Berg was kind enough to invite me to take part in his Friday roundtable on Valley News Live’s 6:30 Point of View program.

It was, as always, an interesting discussion. We talked about the Keystone XL pipeline, slowing down the oil boom and affirmative action.

On the issue of slowing down the oil boom, I was a little surprised to hear my fellow guests claim that the state hasn’t done enough spending in response to it. Keep in mind that state spending increased over 62 percent this biennium over the previous biennium.

Per-capita general fund spending – that’s not even counting all the money spent directly out of the state’s special funds outside of the general fund – has increased 171 percent since 2003.

Outside of some relatively small tax relief, the state has pretty much spent all of the tax revenue bonanza the state has enjoyed over the last decade or so.

I’m not sure lawmakers could have spent more if they wanted to, short of axing some of the tax relief North Dakotans got.

One of my fellow guests suggested that the state hasn’t increased spending on “helping people,” but even that statement doesn’t jibe with reality.

The state Human Services budget actually broke a record this biennium, which is amazing in a state that has seen the highest level of personal income growth in the nation in six out of the last seven years, leaving North Dakota behind only Connecticut and New York in terms of per-capita income.

You’d think that boom in incomes would mean less need for social programs, but that’s not reflected in the Human Services budget which increased more than 25 percent in the current biennium over the previous:

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It’s hard to argue that North Dakota isn’t spending money on “helping people” when we see this sort of growth in the Human Services budget.