Dear Governor Burgum,
During your campaign against Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem in the Republican primary you promised to decline your salary if elected. Some of us, including this humble observer, thought that was little more than a silly talking point. Something to fire up the rubes who see great meaning in that sort of a gesture. As though declining your salary, which amounts to a rounding error in the state budget, is some sort of nuanced fiscal reform.
But you won the election, and since then you’ve been trying to make good on that promise. That’s to your credit.
Only it’s proven harder than you expected. There are a lot of excellent reasons to stop elected officials from declining their salaries, not the least of which is that you might succeed in creating an expectation among the electorate that all elected officials forgo getting paid. While you may be wealthy, thanks to your years of success in the private sector, others voters may want to elect to office in the future will probably need their salaries.
Stenehjem, not to mention your general election opponent Democrat Marvin Nelson, are both successful people but probably couldn’t afford to work as Governor for free.
Which is why you need to just accept your salary already. You’ve said your lawyers have been looking into this situation. They clearly haven’t come up with a practical solution. A committee in the state House rejected your proposed amendment to zero out your salary. Your spokesman, Mike Nowatzki, has told reporters that you’re still hopeful to push that amendment through in the Senate.
Please don’t pursue that. Our lawmakers have enough to do as they dive into the state’s budget woes without having to wrangle with your administration over your salary.
You’ve done enough now to make good on your campaign promise. You gave it a shot. It didn’t work. What we need you to do now is to take your salary and then donate it to charity or something.
After what our state’s cops have been through with the #NoDAPL protests, giving your salary to the Fraternal Order of Police might be a nice gesture. The North Dakota National Guard Foundation would be another likely candidate. But those are just a couple of suggestions.
Or you could just pocket the money. I wouldn’t hold it against you. You’re serving our state, and as far as I’m concerned you’re earning your pay.
But please don’t burn any more calories over what was a silly campaign promise.