The Truth About Education Funding in North Dakota

March 25, 2007

Democrats claim that the reason local property taxes are so high is because the state has cut funding for education. Republicans say it is because counties and school districts are spending too much.

What’s the truth?

The inflation adjusted graphs do not lie.

ND Education - Adjusted

State provided education funding in today’s dollars is indeed lower than in 1986.

Now take a look at the Nominal figures that Republicans like to point to.

ND Education - Nominal

If you go by the unadjusted figures then sure, state provided education funding goes up. But this chart reveals a major problem. The rest of the state government is growing much faster than the growth of education spending.

Conclusion:

State government is growing while education funding is actually under control. The total growth of government must be reduced in Real, Inflation Adjusted dollars and a portion of the savings should be diverted to education.

For every $2 that is cut from total state government spending, education funding should be increased by $1.

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Turkey Really Wants to Invade Iraq

March 24, 2007

As I first posted about last July in Turkey really wants to move into Iraq to prevent a Free Kurdistan.
US struggles to avert Turkish intervention in northern Iraq

The US is scrambling to head off a “disastrous” Turkish military intervention in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq that threatens to derail the Baghdad security surge and open up a third front in the battle to save Iraq from disintegration.

Senior Bush administration officials have assured Turkey in recent days that US forces will increase efforts to root out Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK) guerrillas enjoying safe haven in the Qandil mountains, on the Iraq-Iran-Turkey border.

This is why we have such trouble in foreign policy, as a nation,we supported a seperatist Muslim movement in Kosovo and bombed Serbia to the ground, but we want to force the Kurds to be part of Iraq because Turkey will be mad.

Logic is a virtue.


Spin vs. Truth

March 24, 2007

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.


D.C. Congressional Representation

March 21, 2007

There is an uproar over Representative Mike Pence’s stance on giving the District of Columbia its own Congressman.

Rep. Pence said:

I voted in favor of legislation granting the residents of the District of Columbia the right to full voting representation in the House of Representatives. I believe this legislation is a constitutional remedy to a historic wrong.

The fact that more than half a million Americans living in the District of Columbia are denied a single voting representative in Congress is clearly a historic wrong and justice demands that it be addressed. At the time of the adoption of our present system of government, the federal city did not exist apart from a reference in the Constitution. When the District of Columbia opened for business in 1801, only a few thousand residents lived within her boundaries. Among the founders, only Alexander Hamilton would forsee the bustling metropolis that Washington, D.C. would become and he advocated voting representation for the citizens of the District.

The demands of history in favor of representation for the Americans living in Washington, D.C. is compelling. In establishing the republic, the single over-arching principle of the American founding was that laws should be based upon the consent of the governed. The first generation of Americans threw tea in Boston harbor because they were denied a voting representative in the national legislature in England. Given their fealty to representative democracy, it is inconceivable to me that our Founders would have been willing to accept the denial of representation to so great a throng of Americans in perpetuity.

Represenative Pence, as readers of this blog know, is one of the most solid conservative voices in the Republican Party and in Congress.

Human Event’s has come out strongly against this bill.

I agree with Representative Pence’s stance and rationale.  Once the bill is passed, the Supreme Court should look at it immediately as this is an issue they really are designed to rule on.


Giuliani: On Public Funding Of Abortion

March 11, 2007

 If the dressing in drag wasn’t enough, this will be enough to prevent his nomination.


Iowa Bill Lets Public-sector Unions Charge A Fee To Nonmembers

March 9, 2007

Communism Is Alive And Well In Iowa.

Des Moines Register

Republicans and Democrats agreed on virtually nothing Thursday night as the Iowa Senate gave its blessing to a proposal that could lead to thousands more state and local government workers paying union fees.

The Senate approved, 28-21, a proposed law allowing public employee unions to assess nonunion workers – including schoolteachers and city, county and state government employees – a fee for services they provide.

“This bill is nothing more than a wolf in sheep’s clothing. This is the most serious threat Iowa has faced in our effort to create jobs and bring industry to our state,” said Sen. Pat Ward, a West Des Moines Republican.

“This bill takes away the freedom of Iowans by forcing them to pay fees to unions. It also hurts Iowa’s job creation efforts by gutting our right-to-work law,” said John Gilliland, senior vice president for the Iowa Association of Business and Industry.


Majority party being fiscally irresponsible with N.D. budget

March 9, 2007

Rep. Chris Griffin hits it just as Rep. Jasper Schnieder did the other day.

From the Fargo Forum.

As a newcomer to the Legislature and a moderate Democrat, what I have seen going on in the Capitol regarding the state’s budget has been disappointing.

Like most North Dakotans, I believe in fiscal responsibility, a belief that has been absent from this legislative session so far.

It all started with Gov. John Hoeven’s budget which increased spending by nearly 25 percent. While some of the increases were certainly warranted, this level of spending may be difficult to sustain in future.

As the session progressed, the budget was increased by the Republican-controlled House and Senate to a point where it exceeded the governor’s budget by $370 million. While a small portion of this was duplicative spending, it still takes North Dakota’s budget from a large surplus to a significant deficit. This is not fiscal responsibility, it is fiscal irresponsibility.

This fiscal irresponsibility led the House Finance and Tax Committee to amend the governor’s property tax relief bill to exclude out-of-state residents from inclusion in the tax rebate. This was done to reduce the cost of the property tax relief since it was recognized current spending was out of control.

At the outset, this may not sound like such a bad idea, but it is unconstitutional. House Bill 1051 now violates the commerce clause of the Constitution and will exclude commercial property owners from obtaining any relief if challenged. This concern was brought to the attention of the assembly by Rep. Rod Froelich, D-Selfridge, but was ignored by Republicans and passed in its unconstitutional form.

If this were not enough to question the fiscal responsibility of Republicans, they also modified the governor’s prison proposal to call for the building of a new prison at a price tag of $85 million. This was in place of a $42 million cell house replacement that was supported by the governor and the Department of Corrections. I am unable to comprehend why legislative Republicans want to spend an additional $43 million that is totally unnecessary to guarantee public safety or adequate facilities for the prison population. I’m not soft on crime whatsoever, but this seems like wasteful spending to me.

Coming into the session, I looked forward to having a surplus that could be used to increase funding in a fiscally responsible way for the benefit of all the citizens of the state. I thought education funding could be improved in coordination with some meaningful property tax relief. Instead, I have experienced spending that is out of control and a property tax plan that is unconstitutional. Maybe the Republicans do not agree, but I think the voters of North Dakota expect fiscal responsibility. I know they deserve it.

Griffin, D-Larimore, N.D., is in his first term in the N.D. House of Representatives from District 19.