Bismarck state Senator Dick Dever, a Republican from District 32, makes a good point in his guest post on SAB today.
“If a candidate for governor chooses to use terms like, ‘runaway spending’ and ‘billion-dollar deficits,’ he should specify what he would cut,” Dever writes.
He’s talking about Fargo businessman Doug Burgum.
Even though Burgum has made the state’s fiscal situation a cornerstone of his campaign for governor – suggesting that his business experience and management acumen give him a leg up on “career politicians” when it comes to solving the problem – he hasn’t provided us specifics when it comes to where he’d cut.
That’s important. A rule of thumb in politics is that while you can build public support for the idea of spending cuts, it’s much harder to build a consensus around actual, specific cuts.
When I was emailing with Dever about his guest post he sent along the document below which he requested from Legislative Council. It shows the state’s growth in general fund spending which is almost sharp enough to give you a nosebleed – from under $2 billion in the 2001-2003 biennium to over $6 billion in the current biennium – but also breaks down that growth into categories like the state’s property tax buy downs, education spending, etc.
It’s pretty revealing. In fact, if we take away the state’s spending on education and infrastructure and replacing reduced federal funds for Medicaid, etc., we see that general fund spending has only gone up to about $2.68 billion.
This demonstrates that Burgum’s bold campaign trail promises about fixing “runaway spending” might be more prickly political realities if he’s elected.
So what would Burgum put on the chopping block? The share of local school spending the state took over as a way to lower property taxes? I’m no fan of that policy, but if the state pulls those dollars back property owners are going to take it in the shorts. Is Burgum willing to go down that road?
How about the state take over of local social service programs, also a play to lower property taxes?
How about increased Medicaid funding and the Homestead tax credit?
Stenehjem needs to communicate his plans for the state budget too, but he’s positioned himself as the “stay the course” candidate. I think voters are aware of what they’re getting with the status quo.
It’s Burgum who is campaigning against the Legislature’s track record on spending. It’s Burgum who is posturing himself as the outsider promising change.
He needs to fill us in on what that looks like. Otherwise, he’s just blowing smoke.
Here’s the document Dever requested from Legislative Council: