In a series of public responses to a press conference held by Democratic legislators, House Majority Leader Al Carlson, Republican of Fargo, admitted the budget situation is his party’s responsibility and the minority was not welcome to be involved in crafting a solution. If you’ve followed the news at all over the last year, you know the budget situation facing our state is dire. It is “refreshing” to see Carlson is finally taking ownership of the situation created by years of misplaced priorities and budget mismanagement.
In his response to KX News, Rep. Al Carlson said “You know, they [Democrats] obviously haven’t been involved in all of the discussions we’ve been involved in. And as a majority, it’s our responsibility to balance the budget. We have developed a plan. Today we’re about 55 to 60 million away from balancing the budget. Not the six hundred and forty million or whatever number they had to say.” Secret plans which are developed behind closed doors in highly partisan fashion is exactly how Carlson likes to operate. If they have created those budget saving proposals when will the public view all of them to determine the impact with roughly two weeks left in the session? Hell, one of the campaign pieces created by Odney Advertising for the NDGOP says this is how they plan to operate:
Carlson also spoke to KFYR-TV. “You could always spend your way, a lot more money, but I’ve found around here you can’t spend your way to success. You need trained individuals, you need plans that work, and then you can put some money behind it,” he said. Perhaps the Legislature should have started with a plan for the state budget over the last decade. Identify spending priorities and then determine an effective tax rate to sustain it. Instead, we’ve been given lip service and talking points to win elections. There was no long term vision to determine legislative goals and budget accordingly for the state.
Regarding the current budget shortfall, “The sky is not falling.” Carlson likes to say. Let’s place that talking point into budget specifics.
- “The sky is not falling.” unless you rely on a rural highway maintenance shop that is facing closure under this budget. I guess a hope and a prayer is what you’ll need to rely on to clear your highway when the snow is literally falling from the sky during a North Dakota blizzard.
- “The sky is not falling.” unless you’re a nursing home administrator and your Medicaid reimbursement from the state is being cut. Hope and prayer is what you’ll need to rely on when you’re short staffed to prevent vulnerable patients from falling in their room.
- “The sky is not falling.” unless you’re an individual with a behavioral health crisis. Hope and a prayer is what you’ll need to rely on to not fall deeper into depression because there are no services available for help.
- “The sky is not falling.” unless you rely on Meals on Wheels. Hope and pray you don’t fall further into hunger until the next volunteer delivery shows up at your door.
- “The sky is not falling.” unless you’re combating human trafficking. Hope and pray someone you know doesn’t fall into this horrid industry.
- “The sky is not falling.” unless you’re a public employee who is losing their job as a corrections officer, public nurse, or educator. Hope and pray you don’t fall into the unemployment line for too long because the state aid might not be there.
Those are but a few of the very real impacts facing North Dakotans in the Carlson budget plan up to this point of the session. Those are their choices of whose sky is falling. If they continue to choose to do nothing under his leadership, for many individuals it will feel like much more than a talking point.
For too long, leadership attempted to blame everybody else for state shortfalls. They cannot take credit for the good without taking responsibility for the bad. The majority party refuses to take input from others including experts in the field and colleagues in the minority party. In other words: They own it. Plain and simple. Now that you know who is responsible for the budget and the resulting impacts on your town, neighbors, and family be sure to let them know how you feel about their choices.
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