Now that the election is over, there is still one major task that the citizens and voters of this state must undertake. We must tell our representatives that we will not accept a 12.7 percent increase of the total state budget again and that we will not accept such a large overall increase while the education budget is increased by only 3.5 percent.
During the last legislative session, spending on “general government” increased by 26.3 percent, or $79 million, while funding for education increased by 3.5 percent ($31 million). While the state of North Dakota document these figures are cited from does not define “general government,” it is certainly no stretch to say these numbers are a little lopsided and should probably have been reversed.
If the current majority wants to prove that it still is a vehicle for fiscal conservatism, it will make actual cuts in the cost of “general government,” actual cuts, not just cuts in the rate of growth. These cuts can then be added to the governor’s plan to increase education funding without a tax increase and without tapping the surplus.
There are still reasons that North Dakota votes for Republicans, and it is not to increase spending by 12.7 percent. The voters of this state must not allow their elected representatives to squander their money. It is bad enough that the taxpayers of this state were overcharged in the first place, but the surplus must not be used to pump up the ongoing budget outlays for the state, in turn causing future increases in taxation to be needed.
One priority for the surplus must be used to relieve property taxes by increasing funding to education. That increased state funding must be tied to local subdivisions, either cutting property taxes or developing their own rainy-day fund. Any state relief must be tied to the understanding that the funding is not for new spending.
A portion of the surplus must also be used to stem the skyrocketing cost of college tuition. If the rate of tuition is not restrained, the state will lose the competitive advantage of cost over schools in Minnesota and elsewhere.
No matter what the surplus is spent on, our representatives must be held responsible. If the surplus is squandered on pet projects and obscene increases of spending, it can be assured that the current majority party will lose even more seats than it did on Nov. 7. The people elected them as conservatives. Now it is time for them to be conservative.