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Rep. Kenton Onstad and Rep. Shirley Meyer, Published August 11 2012

Plan adopted by governor is late, not new

Like Yogi Berra once said, “It’s déjà vu all over again.” That’s what we thought when we saw Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s recent call for setting aside $200 million in the Strategic Investment and Improvement Fund for rapidly growing schools. This loan program is a good idea. We applaud the governor for supporting such a program, but it shouldn’t have taken a school superintendent from Texas to bring him on board, and, unfortunately, too much time has been lost and our schools and communities face emergency circumstances as a result.

What could have been? As early as the summer of 2010, we called on Gov. John Hoeven to convene a special session to address the impending impacts of oil development in our communities. He said it could wait until the regular session. That call for a special session was based on two fundamental issues.

First, waiting for the available dollars a full year after mushrooming student numbers is an impossible situation for our schools. Planning construction of classrooms and schools just doesn’t work without resources to finance such construction and recruitment of teachers.

Second, we proposed investing the Legacy Fund in Main Street rather than Wall Street. Repayment of these low-interest loans would come from the oil production tax, just as in Governor Dalrymple’s program. The only difference is that our plan would not jeopardize other needs funded by impact funds or the Strategic Investment and Improvement Fund.

Sadly, our plan was not only rejected two summers ago by then Gov. Hoeven but twice again in the 2011 regular session with HB 1362 and once again in the special session in November 2011. Had our legislation, now Dalrymple’s plan, been passed in the regular session, our schools would already be well on their way to fulfilling the classroom and teacher needs that exist today, not a year or two later.

They say that in politics, taking another’s idea is the highest form of flattery. So, I guess we should be flattered now that the governor has seen the merit in our legislation. We only wish that he would have given his support sooner rather than later. It would have made a difference for our kids and our communities.

Onstad, D-Parshall, respresents District 4 in the North Dakota House. Meyer, D-Dickinson, represents District 36.