No Need To ‘Invest’ Surplus

Fargo Forum – December 24th, 2006

The big question of this legislative session will be how to deal with the surplus which is well more than$500 million currently. Gov. John Hoeven’s answer of increasing general fund spending by 24 percent is wholly unacceptable. The governor has clearly stated with his budget proposal that his fiscal philosophy is to “spend it while we got it.”

I urge everyone to take a look at the governor’s budget proposal and ask yourself the following five questions as you look at the numbers.

– Why is the governor recommending a total of $382 million more than the agencies themselves are requesting?

– Why are Bismarck State College, Williston State College, Minot State University – Bottineau, the University of North Dakota and North Dakota State University requesting less than they received in 2005-2007 while tuition rates continue to increase?

– Why is the governor recommending that his own office receive $300,000 more than it requested?

– Why does the governor think the Executive Branch overall needs25 percent more than it asked for?

– Is there really a need to increase General Fund spending by 24 percent?

The Republicans in the Legislature must show the restraint that Hoeven seemingly does not think is necessary. Our elected officials must not be allowed to hide behind the massive amounts of tax dollars that are left over as a copout to why they should be allowed to increase spending as much as they want in an attempt to score political points.

Just because the surplus is there does not mean it should be spent; just because it is not spent does not mean it should just sit there. Those tax dollars are an overpayment by the taxpayers of this state. They must be used responsibly, and if there are excess tax dollars left over, those dollars must be returned to the people.

Gov. Hoeven may try to portray his plan for the surplus as responsible “investments” in our state’s future, but lawmakers should not be fooled by his misleading rhetoric, which erodes the objective truth behind his proposals. The governor’s convoluted tax rebate scheme and plot to increase spending merely guarantees a future in which North Dakota government grows bigger on the backs of the taxpayers.

The Legislature should not be in the business of giving government agencies more money than they presently have a need for based on their own requests. Their requests should be investigated with due diligence, but no agency or sector of the government should be given money and then allowed to “figure out how to spend it.” That is a very irresponsible and dangerous road to start down, and a very quick way to burn through money that is not the government’s money, but rather the people’s money.

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