North Dakota lawmakers continue to push for more information about Governor Doug Burgum and his use of state resources. The latest attempt introduced by Republican Representative Bill Devlin seeks information on the costs of the Governor’s security and travel as first reported by the Associated Press. It seems lawmakers aren’t buying into the public perception Burgum has crafted about being charitable and transparent with tax dollars.
There have been many questions and rumors surrounding the use of public resources by Doug Burgum. The most direct was a state audit questioned Burgum and Lt. Governor Brent Sanford’s use of state airplanes for what appeared to be personal purposes. The audit recommended the governor’s office stop using state airplanes for commutes. Security and the use of the North Dakota Highway Patrol for Burgum’s travel and public appearances have also led to questions and ultimately Devlin’s legislation. I raised the question of priorities in continuing a social planner for the Governor’s residence while closing down snow plow drivers in rural parts of the state.
Lawmakers claim this legislation is to better understand the costs of the Governor’s office for budget reasons. There is truth to that, but also much more to the drive behind this latest push. The rift between Doug Burgum and Republican lawmakers persists. Thousands of dollars in campaign contributions hasn’t washed away the fact that Burgum campaigned against them in 2016. He accused them of not knowing how to budget for the state because of “runaway spending” practices. Now, those same lawmakers want to know how much of a budget buster he has been compared to previous administrations.
Defenders of Burgum’s practices will be quick to point out that he has demanded the state not pay him a salary as Governor. Declining a salary doesn’t excuse the perceived extraordinary use of state resources for personal convenience. Perhaps declining that salary isn’t as charitable as his inner circle would have you believe if those other costs have exceeded pay for the position. Devlin’s legislation would give us answers.