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Earl S. Strinden, Published March 29 2013

Letter: North Dakotans at the juncture of a vitally important transition

During the time I served in the Legislature, a project was initiated to determine the amount of North Dakota general fund spending tied to or directed by federal programs and mandates with the federal entitlement programs. Some of these programs are optional, but state legislatures were motivated to approve programs to gain the generous federal dollars.

The state financial responsibility is determined by the level of personal income within the state. A state may have to fund $1 to receive $2 of federal funds. The obvious is if it should be necessary to reduce a state’s general fund spending, programs with federal dollars attached have a preferred status. A reduction of one dollar for one of these programs means a loss of two attached federal dollars. This study was done at a time when general fund spending reductions were necessary.

The U.S. Congress with the federal entitlement programs provided every state with a signed blank check. States cannot print or coin money. The federal government does and without the discipline of any measure of value. This is quickly apparent when grocery shopping. It wasn’t long ago when the purchase of $100 of groceries would fill a cart to overflowing. Now, $100 of groceries means a one-third full cart. Little or no inflation? Don’t believe it.

We must face up to a most important responsibility. This is to exercise the necessary understanding and discipline to address and correct our nation’s serious financial problem – out-of-control growing federal debt.

We must do this to assure a bright future for our grandchildren and for generations not yet born. We must not fail our responsibility to keep our nation one of promise and opportunity. If we fail, the growing debt will be paid off with dramatically devalued dollars. This has ramifications that are so serious our nation’s very future could be in jeopardy.

Strinden, Grand Forks, is former majority leader of the North Dakota House.