Audio: Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger Says No Nepotism In Appointment

On Friday I got the opportunity to guest host the Jay Thomas Show on WDAY AM970, and one of my guests was North Dakota Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger. He was appointed by Governor Jack Dalrymple last year to complete former Commissioner Cory Fong’s term in office, and he’s now running for the NDGOP endorsement to campaign for a term of his own. So far he has no Republican challengers, and one Democrat challenger in Fargo attorney Jason Astrup.

I had asked Astrup to come on air with me on Friday as well, but he said he couldn’t because of scheduling conflicts.

I’ve heard from many in political circles that Democrats or their surrogates plan to make nepotism an issue against Rauschenberger. His father, Ron Rauschenberger, serves on Dalrymple’s staff and served Governor John Hoeven before that.

Not surprisingly, the candidate doesn’t think his appointment has anything to do with who his father is, pointing out that the Tax Commissioner’s office is an executive branch entity that is independent of the governor’s office and also noting that he had served as Deputy Tax Commissioner for four years before his appointment.

“I don’t think that’s the case,” he said of the nepotism rumors. “My record speaks for itself. My education and experience speaks for itself.”

I also asked Rauschenberger about how, exactly, one campaigns for an office that really isn’t in charge of making any policy. “Astrup said the operations of the tax office need to change,” the Bismarck Tribune reported of Rauschenberger’s opponent. “The tax commissioner’s office is more than just a collection and reporting agency,” Astrup himself said.

But Rauschenberger talks about a much more subdued role for the Tax Commissioner, pointing out that North Dakota is the only state in the union which elects the office. He said the Tax Commissioner’s office really just has “a role in helping others set policy.” He noted that his office produces more fiscal notes, the report attached to a piece of legislation indicating its cost, than another state agency.

Astrup has also brought up the issue of property taxes, and on that front he says the “legislature did a fantastic job” in passing property tax policy last session. Though Rauschenberger conceded that the existence of Dalrymple’s property tax task force was evidence of more reforms being needed to how the property tax is levied.

Asked if he felt the state shifting local spending burdens to the state budget really counted as tax relief, he said it does. “I do see it as tax relief,” he told me.

According to the Tribune the North Dakota Libertarian Party has also endorsed a Fargo citizen named Anthony Mangnall as their candidate for the office.

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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