Spin vs. Truth

On March 9th I posted an OpEd by Rep. Chris Griffin (D – Larimore) because it is the truth.

On March 22nd Jerry Youngberg, District 42 Republican Chairman, wrote a letter to the Herald where he attempted to discredit Rep. Griffin – his letter lacked one key feature – the truth.

Keep the following data in mind when you read Mr. Youngberg’s letter, followed by my response.

Crossover1Crossover2Executive vs Legislative


by Jerry Youngberg

GRAND FORKS – It is said that the truth is the first casualty of war. It is also said that politics is war by other means. It is important to understand all this when reading the recent viewpoint by state Rep. Chris Griffin, D-Larimore (“N.D. GOP proves to be fiscally careless,” Page 4A, March 9).

Griffin was quick to point to his own lack of experience in the legislative process, but he certainly is no neophyte in the art of hyperbole.

Griffin was quick to criticize Republicans for being above the governor’s budget. He conveniently forgot to mention that he voted for all of the major spending bills introduced in the House and 77 percent of bills that exceeded the governor’s budget.

He also failed to mention, perhaps due to his inexperience, that it is common for legislative spending to be above the governor’s budget at crossover before duplicate expenditures are removed and priorities are fully set. But that wouldn’t make for a good column.

He wrote about the “meaningful” property tax relief he supported: a $195 million lump sum that did not guarantee one cent in actual tax relief. He didn’t back the bill approved by the majority of House members (including three seasoned Democrats), which guarantees a 10 percent reduction in residential property taxes. Oh, and the provision Griffin called “unconstitutional” has been removed from the bill.

As the session nears its end, the majority of legislators will work to ensure that priorities are funded, adequate reserves are set aside and taxes are not increased. I suspect Griffin understands this and is playing politics. I hope he will choose to work with his fellow legislators to accomplish this task rather than spending his time criticizing it.

That, to me, would be the moderate, fiscally responsible thing to do.

My rebuttal:

I have written far, far too many letters criticizing the Republican Legislature and Republican Governor recently – in doing so I have broken Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment – “thou shall not speakth ill of fellow Republicans.” Six months ago I would have never dreamed that with less than a month left in the legislative session I would be defending, be it indirectly, a Democrat. But as Ronald Reagan said in 1962 – “I did not leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left me” – it seems something similar, but in reverse is happening now.

On Thursday, March 22nd the Herald ran a letter by Jerry Youngberg, Chairman of District 42 Republicans, in which Chairman Youngberg refuted some figures in a letter by Representative Chris Griffin in the March 9th Herald – as well as sprinkling in a few personal attacks for good measure. I’d like to set the record straight, and again, I take no pleasure by bringing forward facts that help a Democrat – but they are still facts.

First, Chairman Youngberg claims “…it is common for legislative spending to be above the governor’s budget at crossover before duplicate expenditures are removed and priorities are fully set.” This is 100% true, however, what the good Republican fails to mention is that only 4 Legislative Budgets since 1967 (20 sessions) have cut the Executive Budget Recommendation (EBR) by more than one percent and only seven times within 1% of the EBR. As far as crossover figures go, my data as provided by the Legislative Council only goes back to the 1989 session, but the largest “crossover deficit” in that time was actually last session at negative $38,356,995. This session the “crossover deficit” was at negative $369,817,178 – hardly a drop in the bucket. (Please note that as of March 20th the “crossover deficit” was only negative $295,352,686.)

Chairman Youngberg then brings up this so-called tax relief that Republicans are pushing – “He [Griffin] didn’t back the bill approved by the majority of House memberswhich guarantees a 10 percent reduction in residential property taxes.” This property tax relief does not go to the taxpayers themselves. It goes to counties who are to give it back in the form of a discount on their tax statement. For those who don’t know the truth, there is no guarantee that property taxes will go down after this rebate – but that doesn’t make for a good column.

Chairman Youngberg quips “Oh, and the provision Griffin called “unconstitutional” has been removed from the bill.” This too is true, the provision that Griffin called unconstitutional was removed five full days after Griffin’s letter ran in the Herald.

Chairman Youngberg and Representative Griffin both failed to mention the other unconstitutional provision – the state rebating a tax it never collected in the first place. Let’s just sweep that under the rug for a while.

Throughout his letter, Chairman Youngberg brings up Representative Griffin’s “youth and inexperience” numerous times. The good chairman should consider the ramifications of these comments to his own elected “young and inexperienced” legislators from his district, Representative Stacey Dahl and Senator Nick Hacker. (Both of which deserve to be given a second term by the way.)

Senator Hacker already must deal with the heat within the Republican Party caused by his involvement in “hog housing” the WSI bill. While Senate Leadership should never have allowed or promoted his involvement in the “hog housing” in the first place; having the Chairman of the same district calling out other young legislators is not a wise political move.

In closing, I would suggest that Chairman Youngberg look at the data of how the Legislature has behaved in the past compared to what they are doing this session. The numbers show in black and white that something is missing this session – fiscal conservatism. As a Conservative – I applaud any other Conservative, Liberal, Democrat, or Republican to point that truth out.

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2 Responses to Spin vs. Truth

  1. nodakfarmboy says:

    Youngberg-

    “It is also said that politics is war by other means.”

    Actual quote,

    “”War is a continuation of politics by other means.”

    -Carl von Clausewitz

    So he opens his letter with a misquote. Appropriate given the contents, eh?

  2. Torrie says:

    The only thing you write that I absolutely disagree with is that Hacker deserves a second term [I haven’t followed Dahl’s voting record]. Hacker was put out front on the WSI bill because Republican leadership is – if nothing else – smart enough to realize Hacker is not likely to win again in his current district. Arguably Hacker shouldn’t even be representing District 42 right now because of the “residence” requirement. That will be a problem for him if he tries to run again next year.

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