In the final days of the legislative session, lawmakers are wrapping up agency budgets. Those budgets contain pay raises for state employees. The compromise reached between the Senate and House weeks ago was to give state employees approximately 2% in the first year of the biennium and 2.5% in the second in addition to other stipulations based on salary. With that as the basis for hard-working state employees, it makes a person wonder if State Treasurer Kelly Schmidt earned the proposed 8% pay raise approved by the ND Senate.
Recall, ND Land Commissioner Jodi Smith earlier revealed that $137 million was shorted from two constitutional funds dedicated to the state’s public schools. Days later, State Engineer Garland Erbele told a Senate committee that a third constitutional fund, the resources trust fund that benefits water projects, was also shorted $125 million. $262 million mandated by the North Dakota Constitution misplaced. Treasure Schmidt is responsible for transferring those funds.
After some back-and-forth, the Legislature ultimately decided to repay the misplaced tax dollars to the proper funds. Governor Burgum signed the bill. That appears to be the only repercussion for such a large error. Make no mistake, a private sector employee would have been held accountable. But this is the public side and politics are involved. Some had suggested it would have been appropriate for Kelly Schmidt to resign as Treasurer.
Instead, the Senate approved giving Schmidt an 8% raise far exceeding what they’re willing to give other state employees like highway patrol and plow drivers. The House appropriations have worked to reduce that raise to keep it in line with what other state employees have earned. The question is whether or not the raise has been earned after it was revealed that $262 million was misplaced under her leadership.