Roscoe Streyle: Some Lawmakers Are Basing Policy Decisions on Their Dislike of Governor Burgum

Governor Doug Burgum delivers his State of the State Address in front of a joint session of the 66th legislature. TOM STROMME/Bismarck Tribune

This guest post was submitted by Minot resident Roscoe Streyle.

There has been a lot of talk about the state’s budget and the process over the past numbers of years for various reasons. Too much revenue, too little revenue, too much spending, not enough spending, too much savings, bad projections. Governor’s budget versus the Legislature’s budget and so on.

I will only focus on the budget process and projections and try to explain what is really going on.

First, the Governor submits his budget to the Legislature. This takes over a year to craft.

The Legislature doesn’t do a budget before session. They, historically, has introduce the Governor’s budget but not completely in the most recent sessions.

This session the Legislature basically threw the Governor’s budget in the garbage.

This was done for various reasons. I agree with many of those reasons.  A natural rub between the Governor’s office and the Legislature is healthy and good.

Governor Burgum has been treated differently – I’d even say somewhat unfairly – since the day he was elected. Much like President Trump.

A lot of people do not like change.

I’ve been tough on the Governor for various things in the past, but I largely support him and his vision. Some key lawmakers, however, just won’t listen to any form of reason when dealing with the Governor and won’t budge from their negative position.

I’ve found the Governor to be engaging and energetic. He has a glass half full mindset. He is outside the box, non-traditional, forward thinking, a change driver, likable, a listener (and talker), and extremely hard working.  These are just my own personal opinions based on my many interactions and conversations with him.  Others may say the opposite.

There are a few key people in positions of power that won’t support any of the Governor’s proposals, simply because they’re the Governor’s proposals. 

I know the arrows will be flying at me for this paragraph. That’s fine.

I do however support what the Legislature did in taking back its rightful budget authority, but I also support a lot of the Governor’s budget proposals. It’s my hope in the end the Legislature will implement the vast majority of his agenda.  If they don’t it will be a missed opportunity to propel North Dakota ahead.

Now on to the budget process, the Legislature has ultimate authority to set the projected revenue numbers for the budget. The Governor and the revenue advisory committee can only make recommendations.  The budget projections are voted on by each chamber’s Appropriations Committee.  If the Legislature thinks the projected revenue numbers are too rosy they can change and vice versa.

The Legislature did just this a few weeks ago, which has been the trend for a number of sessions now.  They lowered the projected oil barrels per day and the price of oil for the 19-21 budget cycle, July 1, 2019 – June 30, 2021.

Why did they do this?  There are various answers to this question, but there’s only one primary reason.  Many will say it was because they’re being conservative or cautious and that’s true for most members, but it’s not the primary reason.  I’ve voted to do this a number of times myself, knowing full well what I was doing.

The primary and honest reason is the appropriations chairman position has enormous power, and they simply want to eliminate and/or reduce many of the Governors recommendations.

There are a few I don’t like either, like infusing cash into the public employee’s retirement fund, but the majority of the Governor’s proposals are exactly what the state needs.

There are a few key people in positions of power that won’t support any of the Governor’s proposals, simply because they’re the Governor’s proposals.

This is really too bad.

The Legislature and the Governor should work together to move North Dakota forward.  There are some – not a majority – that have taken things far too personally when dealing with the Governor.  Politics are not about feelings or personality; it’s about doing what’s best for the state.  It is almost 100% about relationships and I do feel the Governor can and must do better here, in other words he needs to play the game.  Take an issue, find a solution, talk to each other, resolve any differences (compromise) and go on to the next issues. Repeat.

Not all good ideas come from just the Legislature or just the Governor, but both need to be heard and both are critical in crafting good public policy.

The Republican Governor should be supported by the Republican Legislature. Not on everything, but on a majority of his visionary forward thinking proposals.  You might be surprised to learn how many will vote the opposite of whatever the Governor wants just because of his position, personality and/or style.

To summarize, the projections for oil barrels per day, the number of drilled and fractured wells are ridiculously low.  Talk to and trust the industry, not some leadership position politicians, these individuals are not oil analysts and have no experience in the oil and gas industry.  Tweaking these budget numbers unreasonably low to give cover for outright quashing or reducing budgets/bills like the “Prairie Dog” infrastructure bill, innovation technology matching grant bill, research investments, Legacy Fund earnings proposals, technology/security investments, mental/addiction health initiatives, various UAS proposals, and many of the other Governor or Legislator driven proposals is just plain wrong.

In March, the oil revenue forecast will be upped, I guarantee.

The State can afford and needs to make these investments.  I know the game is played this way and I’ve played this game myself, but that doesn’t mean the rules of the game are correct.  This session isn’t even halfway over yet, so there’s still the possibly of something bold, transformative and visionary coming out of it.

I hope for North Dakota’s sake that happens.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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