Earlier today I wrote a post, based on conversations with lawmakers in Bismarck, that Governor Doug Burgum’s veto of legislation limiting executive branch bonuses would likely be sustained.
The lawmakers told me that the House would vote to override the veto pretty handily, but that in the Senate an override vote would likely fail.
The first part of that prediction came true. The House voted 84-7 to override Burgum’s veto of HB1153.
There were some defections. The chamber originally voted 91-1 to pass the bill in the first place.
Here’s video of the floor debate:
“This was a good bill,” Rep. Jeff Delzer (R-Underwood) told lawmakers. He noted bill was inspired by big bonuses handed out by former Governor Jack Dalrymple, funded by an unfilled FTE position.
“Unfortunately we did not take it away,” Delzer said, putting some of the blame on lawmakers, and that allowed bonuses “that were way over the cost of normal state employees.”
According to Delzer, the average performance or retention bonus for state employees is in the $3,000 – $4,000 range. Those given under Dalrymple were significantly higher.
“We can’t do anything about the fact that this was done,” Delzer said. “We can make sure tax dollars are spent appropriately in the future.”
Both the Republican and Democratic leaders spoke in favor of overriding the veto as well.
“We’ve never as a Legislature had this issue before,” Minority Leader Corey Mock (D-Grand Forks) told the House floor. He said that if the veto is allowed to stand the Legislature will have cut state staff by 8 percent, given state employees no pay raises, “and yet allow bonuses in the excess of $5,000 per year.”
Majority Leader Al Carlson (R-Fargo) said this wasn’t a “fight” with Burgum’s office but “more of a philosophical difference. Still, he said it’s not right to allow big bonuses that other state employees aren’t eligible for.
He noted that some of the people who got the bonuses from Dalrymple are still working in the capitol. “What do the other employees in this building think when they walk past that person and know they got a $30,000 bonus?”
“It’s not good for morale,” he added.
Now that the House has voted to override the veto the question goes to the Senate chamber.