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Sen. Mac Schneider and Rep. Kenton Onstad, Published January 30 2013

Letter: Here’s what ND Legislature’s 2 majority leaders did not say

Our colleagues, House Majority Leader Al Carlson, R-Fargo, and Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson, recently made a “promise” on the pages of The Forum (Jan. 20) to address a variety of well-sounding issues during this legislative session.

We enjoy serving with Carlson and Wardner, and we were also pleased to read our friends’ refreshing admission that they “didn’t put oil in the ground.” However, drilling down into some of the rhetoric used by the supermajority this session reveals cracks that resemble freshly fracked Bakken shale.

Take the avowal that the supermajority is “prepared to meet” the challenges of the oil boom “head on.” Past legislative actions have fallen far short of addressing the needs of oil-impacted communities. Even much- needed “major infrastructure investments” will largely serve to play catch-up. We have a better plan that the majority should embrace: Allow western North Dakota to keep a greater share of oil tax revenue at the local level to address critical needs as they arise.

The majority leaders next cite “a moral obligation to ensure we have given children the tools they need to succeed.” That is a bold statement in light of the majority’s active opposition to successful initiatives like Headstart and passive reluctance to address critical child care needs across the state. Dem-NPL legislators, on the other hand, are working with pragmatic members of both parties to meet this “moral obligation” to our kids by expanding access to early childhood education and implementing pre-kindergarten in North Dakota.

Our colleagues also “guarantee you” that “you and your family will see real tax relief,” even pledging the arrival of this relief, somehow, “before the session ends.” We agree on the need for tax cuts, but our focus is on providing lasting property tax relief that truly goes to North Dakota families. Unfortunately, the supermajority appears to support $25 million in permanent tax cuts for corporations, with much of the reduction going to out-of-state companies like Wal-Mart. That relief should go to people in places like Bismarck and Buffalo, not corporations in Bentonville, Ark.

When it comes to addressing challenges and taking advantage of opportunities in North Dakota, promises need not be made as Republicans – or as Democrats. Rutted roads and investments to ensure lasting prosperity don’t lend themselves to a partisan approach. In that spirit, we continue to extend an open hand to the majority to work together. Like a horizontal well, we will get the best result for the people of North Dakota during this historic session if our legislators reach out in both directions.

Schneider, D-Grand Forks, is North Dakota Senate minority leader. Onstad, D-Parshall, is House minority leader.