Here is a rundown of what you might have missed in North Dakota politics this week sprinkled with a dash of sarcasm. Syria, Kevin Cramer on taxes, Burgum budget guidelines, Farm Bill fight, endorsements, and voter ID. Consider it a cheat sheet for tonight’s happy hour discussion. Cheers to the weekend. If you’d like to submit a moment from the week, click here!
President Trump ordered missile strikes on Syria in response to the use of chemical weapons.
Fight Continues Between Legislator and Burgum
A legislator is questioning the state expense of Governor Burgum’s numerous events. For whatever reason, the legislator is choosing to remain anonymous. This is the latest example of the continued rift between the Legislature and the Governor. The legislator should stop hiding behind the vale of secrecy.
Cass County Keeps Polls Open to 8 pm
Cass County chose to keep polls open to 8 pm this election cycle. The decision came after Cass County Auditor Mike Montplaisir sent surveys out to district chairs of both parties. The results, Republicans were in favor of eliminating an hour of voting while Democrats wanted to keep the hours the same. In the end, the County Commission made the right decision.
Cramer’s Choice on Tax Figures Raises Questions
Tax day. Congressman Kevin Cramer used the opportunity to attempt and brag about the tax overhaul rushed in December. In doing so, Cramer either strategically selected which information he used or demonstrated he is completely out-of-touch with average North Dakota families. Basically, Cramer implied that married couples in ND with four dependents can look forward to over a $3,500 tax break. But really, that would only apply to a family making at least $100,000 or more annually. The typical married couple in ND makes less than $60,000. Cramer’s spin and data from North Dakota’s own Tax Department are below.
You’ll also notice in the table above that a ND family making $75,000 with 4 dependents gets a reduction of $480, while a family making $175,000 with 4 dependents gets a reduction of $8,200. It looks like he’s cherry-picking the data to make average North Dakota families look like they’re getting more.
Burgum Budget Guidelines
Governor Doug Burgum issued his budget guidelines for the upcoming biennium. “Large” agencies are to find 10% in budget cuts and “small” agencies are to find 5%. The elephant in the room is how exactly this will impact property tax relief. I wrote about that on Thursday. Expect your property taxes to go up even further than they did this year.
Bank of North Dakota Continues Record Profits
The day after Burgum told state agencies they needed to find deeper budget cuts, the Bank of North Dakota announced it had yet another year of record profits. The bank’s annual report to the state Industrial Commission lists $145.3 million in net earnings, up from $136.2 million in 2016. Is the Bank’s purpose to make profits off of student loans and other programs utilized by North Dakota residents? Expect to hear more on that debate going forward.
Farm Bill Becomes Partisan
The House version of the Farm Bill was splitting along party lines. Congressman Collin Peterson had this to say about how the bipartisan work broke down.
This is a flawed bill that is the result of a bad and nontransparent process. I oppose it and urge my colleagues on the Committee to oppose it as well. More than nine months ago, we began discussions on a bipartisan farm bill. I saw this process as a way to work collaboratively and produce a work product where so many in this town have fallen victim to politics. We wanted to get to a bipartisan bill. In our discussions, we were able to find common ground on quite a few areas but, as anyone who has been through this before knows—and I’ve been through a few farm bills—nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to.
But to be a bipartisan bill, the bill has to be bipartisan in every title. Both parties must have input and give and take on all parts of the bill. I told the Chairman in our first meeting in December that because of how Republican leadership handled SNAP amendments in 2013, my Democrats would not trust anything that appeared to be driven by ideology. He told me verbatim that he wouldn’t jam me on SNAP, and yet here we are. – Congressman Collin Peterson
Burgum made more news by saying he endorses Kevin Cramer and Kelly Armstrong. It would have been news if he DIDN’T endorse them.
The State of North Dakota continues its fight against the Court striking down their attempt to implement voter ID. This is the second time it has been struck down. They are even refusing to advertise the law change to voters which will likely lead to confusion when it comes time to vote. Earlier this week, they wanted to eliminate an hour of voting in Cass County, now they want to keep voters in the dark on what will be allowed at the same polls.