At my request, I received the following public document from the North Dakota Tax Department. The column on the far right titled, “Amount reduced if limited to $3.5 million” shows how much every county would be denied each year from Rep. Craig Headland’s amendment to SB 2273. The total state breakdown appears at the bottom.
You’ll notice the Tax Department document points to SB 2143 from the 64th Legislative Session or the session in 2015. The bill was introduced by Senator Dave Oehlke, (R) Devils Lake. In its original form, the bill would have had the state match dollar-for-dollar, 100%, the county mills for senior services. A reversal of the policy changes made in the 1980s. It passed the Senate unanimously. The amount was changed in the House Finance and Tax Committee to an 85% match. Who made that change in 2015? Rep. Craig Headland. The Senate refused to accept that change, and after a number of conference committees between the House and Senate the compromise came in at an 87.5% match.
Why do I bring this to your attention? To show this state match for senior services which is now about to be capped isn’t an arbitrary number as others suggest. It was debated in a bill last session where it received a public hearing. The same individual trying to keep state funds from senior service programs in 2017 successfully kept state funds from the program in 2015. He is simply using a different mechanism this session for the next two years.
The numbers don’t lie. Call it shoring up. Call it a cut. Call it a cap. Call it a reduction. Call it a pause. Call it whatever in the hell you want. The bottom line is there is no masking that this amendment, rushed through without a public hearing, will deny approximately $439,844 per year for the next two years to senior citizen services that otherwise would have been available. Meanwhile, the cost of providing the services will likely continue to rise. This may mean either fewer services will be provided or another means of revenue will be tapped. A rise in your property taxes for example.
This will free up roughly 1 million dollars to shore up other budgets – Craig Headland, (R) Montpelier.
In another news segment, the Director of the Valley Senior Services in Fargo explained how these programs keep older North Dakotans in their homes and independent. The longer we keep them in their own homes and out of the more expensive nursing home care the less expensive for the family and the state explains the senior services director. In other words, either make these smaller investments up front, or make larger payments in the form of Medicaid in the future. Headland isn’t buying that argument. He somehow warps into thinking that is just partisan political talk. Therein lies a bigger problem in this legislature, the attitude of thinking they always know better than the professionals on the front lines. Professional input is often discarded which sometimes costs the state even more money over time.
Nobody is disputing budget adjustments, cuts, and transfers need to be made to balance the budget. It is where this legislature is trying to place the burden that causes passionate disagreement. They claim everything is on the table, but I dispute that. I’ve said before; the budget shows your priorities. I don’t believe this underhanded move matches the priorities of the general North Dakota public. I think Headland and others knew that before they pushed this reduction and that is why they tried to sneak it by you. They were caught, and they aren’t happy about it.