Today gubernatorial candidate Rick Becker was in Minot for a campaign stop talking to potential delegates for the NDGOP’s state convention in April, so I stopped by with my daughter Layla to check things out.
He had some pretty interesting things to say, so I thought I’d share a few of them with you.
That was Becker’s answer when I asked him if he planned to run for the Republican nomination for governor beyond the convention in April.
The convention, for those of you not following along, only endorses candidates. Per state law, the statewide primary vote in June picks the actual nominees who advance to the general election ballot.
I’ve asked Becker this question before, and the reason I asked it again is he always tempered his comments by saying his position hinged on what his opponents had to say. When Becker told me previously that he wouldn’t advance to the June ballot if denied the endorsement at the convention his only opponent, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, had also said he would abide by the convention’s endorsement.
But Fargo businessman Doug Burgum has upended the situation. He’s said that while he’ll try to get the endorsement from delegates at the convention, he’s also going to advance to the June primary no matter what the outcome.
“May main thing is if the convention is done fairly I’ll abide by the outcome,” he told me.
“We made a mistake. Republicans made a mistake.”
That’s what Becker said about the state’s budget situation, though he tempered the statement by saying that “the Democrats would have been ridiculously worse.”
[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]”…the Democrats would have been ridiculously worse.”[/mks_pullquote]
He said Stenehjem has said that the state saw this downturn coming and prepared for it with ample reserves, and disputed that this is true.
“The governor doesn’t do an across the board allotment if we saw it coming,” he said.
For the record, allotments of at least 2.5 percent are required by state law in order for the state to tap into the Budget Stabilization or “rainy day” fund.
“Nothing is off the table.”
What Stenehjem and most state officials have said that across-the-board cuts are going to happen, they’ve been quick to say that cuts to K-12 education spending will not happen. That’s because the state has another fund – the Foundation Aid Stabilization Fund – has over $650 million in it. So K-12 is getting a 4.05 percent allotment, just like the rest of the state government, it’s just that it’s being paid for out of that fund.
But Becker said he wants K-12 on the table. “It’s a $2 billion budget,” he said. “There’s room to cut.”
I’m not sure what he meant by that. I she saying we shouldn’t cover this year’s allotment with the Foundation Aid fund? If so, then what exactly is that fund for?
Or maybe he’s talking about downsizing the K-12 budget in future bienniums. If so, he’s probably right. Back when the state’s enrollment was declining K-12 saw big budget increases. In more recent years enrollment has been increasing, and the spending has gone up even faster.
There is always a lot of squealing around any sort of government budget cuts, but I’m certain Becker’s right that we could find some waste in K-12.
Pull back Fargo flood diversion funding
“There are red flags everywhere…for a city that’s already protected,” Becker said of the controversial Fargo flood diversion project.
Becker said that in response to a question from the crowd about funding for Minot’s flood protection. “There’s $500 million sitting on a shelf” for the Fargo flood project, Becker said. “I’d like to pull that money back and maybe use it for the forgotten city of Minot for flood relief.”
Becker said he’s sent a letter to Legislative Council – the legal advisers for the legislature – to see if it would be possible for a governor to pull that money back.
I’m not sure Becker has his facts right on these dollar amounts. According to recent numbers from the State Water Commission, of the funds allocated by the Legislature for Fargo flood protection there is over $96 million in funds unpaid and $129 million in funds unobligated. That adds up to nowhere near the $500 million Becker is talking about.
“I’d vote for him.”
That’s what seven-year-old Layla said after attending Becker’s event with me. I like to bring her with me to boring political events hoping, at the very least, a desire to be informed and be involved will rub off. I told her to listen to Becker and tell me what she thinks.
She liked what she heard, for what that’s worth, though admittedly she spent a lot of the time playing games on her tablet.