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Sen. Mac Schneider, Published January 15 2013

Letter: Forum editorial misrepresented clarity and meaning of remarks

The Forum’s Jan. 9 editorial (“High-fives all around for ND”) took issue with my statement that the legislative session is not a “time for high-fives” among politicians, making an inaccurate claim that I was “apparently” referring to Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s “upbeat assessment of the state’s condition.”

“Apparently” The Forum editorial page did not check with its own reporter about my remarks, which made clear that the State of the State address is an entirely appropriate time to tout North Dakota’s accomplishments. We are all thankful for North Dakota’s economic strength, and the widespread optimism about our state’s future makes it exciting to be in the state Legislature.

However, with the speeches now behind us and the work of the session under way, dwelling on past achievements should make way for a focus on addressing immediate needs that have arisen secondary to the rapid development of our natural resources. We should also capitalize on opportunities that will keep North Dakota strong after the oil boom subsides.

That means allowing western North Dakota communities to keep a greater share of oil revenue at the local level, providing lasting property tax cuts for North Dakota families, and making responsible, permanent investments in education – like a scholarship endowment – that will pay dividends long after the last drop of oil is extracted from the ground.

The Forum evidently shares this view, calling for “one-time investments” and management of state funds “to ensure a sustainable state economy when either oil or agriculture or both turn down.” That’s a tough needle to thread during an 80-day legislative session, and it won’t happen if our legislators’ hands are busy giving “high-fives all around.”

Calls for planning shouldn’t be unfairly construed as pessimism. We are right to be proud of our state, and our residents are also deserving of legislators who handle success with a North Dakota sense of humility and an eye toward future challenges and opportunities. That should be our approach during this historic session, and if our legislative actions match our state’s good fortune, I’ll be looking to give a congratulatory smack of the palm to a colleague when we adjourn in May.

Schneider, D-Grand Forks, is minority leader of the North Dakota Senate.