The elimination and scaling down of funding for NDSU buildings is the latest example of the ND House’s anger towards the Fargo area. Early last week, I wrote that Fargo faces more than just “funding fatigue” from lawmakers. The week ended with House Majority Leader Chet Pollert offering an amendment to eliminate a new agricultural research and instruction building to replace Harris Hall deemed “an embarrassment” by Ag leaders. Pollert’s amendment also scales back public support for replacing Dunbar Hall that fails to meet current safety codes and “poses a safety hazard” according to the Fargo Fire Department.
Funding for these projects received unanimous support from the Senate in February. Since then, the Legislature received an updated budget forecast that showed a better situation for North Dakota going into the next biennium. With more revenue to address long overdue upgrades to protect students and staff, along with recruiting top scientists, why did the Pollert with the support of his appropriators like Jeff Delzer make this move?
NDSU is a top research university for agriculture in a state whose top industry is agriculture. Pollert’s short-sighted amendment impacts not only NDSU and Fargo but the entire state and agriculture. Is his motivation budgetary or petty politics?
Governor Doug Burgum included $51.35 million for Dunbar Hall in the Higher Education budget. I explained how the same ND House Appropriations Committee – now weighing Pollert’s amendment – treated Burgum’s budget at the beginning of the session. HB 1003 passed out of the House after Delzer and his committee removed the funding for NDSU’s Dunbar Hall.
Imagine for a moment, Doug Burgum fighting for $51 million dollars for a building used to educate students and future professionals removed from safety hazards the way he has gone out of his way to fight for $50 million for a Presidential Library in Medora. Is the Theodore Roosevelt Library the only thing this Governor chooses to fight for? It seems potentially having his own name on a corner brick of that library in Medora is a priority for Burgum. Perhaps being recognized on the big screen as a guest of President Dean Bresciani at every home Bison football game is enough for him.
Whether it was an attempt to force a land swap from the previous Majority Leader Al Carlson, or eliminating funding for vital upgrades from the current Majority Leader Chet Pollert, is seems that NDSU is a consistent target of the ND House. Why? Secondly, who is going to fight for NDSU in this Legislature?