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Sen. Tyler Axness, Published May 22 2013

Letter: No vision for ND future

As we become further removed from the final gavel of the 63rd legislative session, many of us across the state continue to debate the merits of its outcome. The 2013 Legislative Assembly should have been the moment our state pieced together a 30-year plan to lead the nation in innovative means across all sectors both public and private. Instead, it was clear that under current leadership there is no plan to implement a visionary future for North Dakota.

With no plan, this session was full of misguided priorities and squandered opportunities. Instead of reforming our property tax system in a lasting and meaningful way, the majority attempted – three times – to recklessly reduce the oil extraction tax without warrant while the projection for recoverable oil more than doubled. Instead of seriously addressing the child care crisis, the majority once again deferred responsibility to the federal government, while simultaneously crying foul about the federal debt, and debated some of the most contentious and personal social issues of our time. Instead of creating a permanent scholarship fund for our brightest minds, the majority passed resolutions to limit the people’s voice – your voice – through limiting the initiated measure and grand jury process. However, these same officials will return asking for your vote in hopes you’ll have forgotten about their absence of faith in your vote on citizen-initiated policy.

This lack of a plan and leadership has forced our state to continue to react to challenges rather than create a proactive approach to moving North Dakota forward. Never should the oil-producing counties have been left in limbo as they were under this supermajority. At the beginning of the session, we heard that now is the time to “catch up.” I would contest that had there been bold action and a plan in the initial stages of our current development, the need to catch up would not be our continued focus.

These are unique times in our state. The opportunities we have been blessed with are accompanied by unprecedented challenges. Anything short of an unprecedented attempt to solve those challenges is a continued failure in leadership. We should not be joyous for doing short of what was necessary after years of legislative neglect; rather we must look for ways to get ahead of these challenges and be visionary, not reactionary.

The sign of true leadership is putting personal wants aside for the greater good of the people, not only in this moment but also for the future. The money we saved or spent will not determine our success but rather the priorities, vision and legacy we leave behind for the generations to come. It is time for a plan, balance and a change in leadership for a real path forward for North Dakota.

Axness, D-Fargo, represents District 16 in the North Dakota Senate.