September 30th, 2014 State's Approach To Fighting Measure #5 Misses The Mark The Governor's plan to spend $80 million in hopes of weakening the case

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September 30th, 2014


State's Approach To Fighting Measure #5 Misses The Mark

The Governor's plan to spend $80 million in hopes of weakening the case for backers of Measure #5 is bad policy.


Measure #5 on the November ballot is one of the most heated issues there is is. It would create a new state program and dedicate a full 5% of oil tax revenues to "conservation" (upwards of $300 million per biennium).

(Conservation is a code-word, because extreme environmentalism does not get much support in North Dakota, the folks with that sort of agenda use the term "conservation" so they don't scare people away.

Supporters of the measure tried to make the 2012 ballot, but were blocked when they made the poor decision to hire NDSU football players to collect signatures who proceeded to forge signatures instead.

During the 2013 legislative session, in hopes of preventing another attempt to create this conservation fund, the legislature created a $30 million fund of its own to do the same thing. The idea was essentially bribe the supports of the conservation fund to go away by spending a little bit of what they wanted.

Of course, they were never happy about the way the committee to manage the fund was set up, and came back to get signatures again - and Measure #5 was created.

Measure #5 is one of those measures that is almost universally opposed.

Both the Farm Bureau and the Farmers Union oppose the measure.

In North Dakota politics, it is generally accepted that if the Farm Bureau and Farmers Union can agree a ballot measure is bad, it is a safe bet that it is really bad.

The problem is that North Dakota has so much money, and Measure #5 scares so many people on both sides of the aisle that elected officials would do anything to try to defeat it - up to and including spending a whole lot more taxpayer funding at the alternative they created in 2013.

Governor Dalrymple has proposed a plan to take that $30 million program created last session and increasing it to a $80 million program - almost tripling the size and scope of the program.

It's only tax money, right?

Why not throw it around to fight a ballot measure everyone is scared will pass?

Why not? Because it is simply bad policy to fight a really, really bad ballot measure with more spending that may or may not really be needed, just to say "we're taking care of it."

In North Dakota, the ability to throw money at problems has replaced real leadership.

Instead of expanding the $30 million conservation fund to $80 million, the governor should say "we already created a fund to do this, but the Measure #5 folks weren't happy about that because it wasn't set up exactly the way they wanted it to be set up with unlimited tax dollars to spend on special interest programs."

At some point in the future, this state is going to see a budget crisis - it won't be next year, or the year after, but some day, these decisions to grow government so massively will come back to bite the people making the decisions.

Leadership requires decisions to be made, and that doesn't always translate into spending other people's money.

Growing government to fight other liberal attempts to grow government even more will not be a winning strategy for Republicans in the long term.

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-Dustin Gawrylow, Managing Director

North Dakota Watchdog Network