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Published August 19 2010

GOP says Democrats being hypocritical

BISMARCK – North Dakota Republicans say it’s hypocritical for Democrats to accuse them of not taking road funding seriously when Democrats in Congress voted to cut funding to North Dakota highways last week.

In turn, state Democrats say the Republicans “are trying to pull the wool over your eyes.”

Republicans had news conferences in Bismarck and Minot on Wednesday to discuss the issue.

Sen. Dwight Cook, R-Mandan, said federal Democrats voted to cut funding to North Dakota highways as part of the $26.1 billion state budget bailout package. The state Department of Transportation has found North Dakota will lose $13.6 million in road funding as a result of the legislation, Cook said.

“For the Democratic delegation to vote to cut funding for highways just weeks after Democrats accused the governor of not taking the issue seriously is frankly hypocritical,” Cook said.

Cook was referring to the call by state Demo-crats for a special session to address infrastructure needs in western North Dakota’s oil country.

Assistant House Minority Leader Kenton Onstad, D-Parshall, was among the legislators who wanted a special session.

In a news release, he said the federal aid bill brought $51 million to North Dakota: $29 million in Medicaid funding and $22 million in education funding.

Onstad also said the funds referred to by Cook are not in actual projects but for contract authority, which allows a federal agency to budget money before having the funds in hand.

The North Dakota Department of Transportation has more contract authority than actual funds, so a reduction in contract authority does not mean a loss in funding, the Democrats said.

“It is less than honest for Sen. Cook to suggest that this is a loss of federal money to the state of North Dakota, when in fact the state has been receiving record levels of federal funds to build and repair its roads, like four-laning U.S. 2,” Onstad said in a statement.

Cook said North Dakota did not need a budget bailout bill since the state has been fiscally responsible.

“To put North Dakota citizens on the hook for the irresponsibility of California and New York is unfair,” he said.

The Legislature will work hard to minimize the effects of the federal cuts, which likely won’t affect the state this year but will in the future, Cook said.

Onstad said Democrats were surprised that Republicans are complaining about the federal road funding.

“First of all, it’s not true, and, second of all, this is the same crowd who has been railing against federal spending all year. So now we have a good bill that is saving teachers’ jobs in North Dakota, and we have the Republicans crying ‘Where’s my money?’ ” Onstad said.

Finneman is a multimedia reporter for Forum Communications Co.