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Published May 07 2013

Editorial: East-west divisions overcome?

One of the enduring themes in North Dakota history is the enmity between east and west. Some of it’s real, much of it is myth. When it comes to the recently concluded 2013 Legislature, the record shows most of it is myth – at least among brighter lawmakers.

The session was record-setting. It was the longest ever, using the full 80 days allotted by the state Constitution. It appropriated more money than North Dakotans ever dreamed the state would have to spend, in large part because of the boom in oil country, the extended economic health of agriculture, and the economic diversity of the state’s major urban centers. It is in those expenditures, agree with them or not, that a relatively constructive relationship between east and west was evident.

A perusal of appropriations confirms that legislators, often guided by Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s budget proposal, spread the wealth around. Significant funding went to western and eastern water projects, for example. An unprecedented appropriation for roads and other infrastructure in oil country won near universal support from western and eastern legislators. College campuses, east and west, won funding for capital improvements, repairs and renovations, and education programs. Coalitions of legislators from all corners of the state assured funding would pass.

Of course, critics will pick apart of the final budget. Some will say the state spent too much on the wrong things; others will opine not enough was spent for the right things. That’s the routine after every legislative session.

But this much is clear: Most lawmakers understand that North Dakota, from the Red River Valley to the Badlands, is one great state. When the state pulls together, it wins. The 2013 Legislature, despite its foolish and ultimately quixotic fixation on a few social issues, did a good job of stewarding taxpayers’ money. And the statesmanship often demonstrated by most lawmakers, whether urban, rural or small town, was reflected in the results.

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management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.