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Published November 12 2013

Forum editorial: ND spends to address real needs

As predictable as a mosquito infestation in July, the regular cast of buzzing critics has been having a stinging-good time with The Forum’s Sunday examination of the increase in North Dakota government spending. Self-defined conservative bloggers and associated know-nothings are doing what they do best: Spin, twist and parse the work of legitimate journalists in order to shore up a fact-starved and happily uninformed ideological agenda. It’s great fun for lazy bloggers and others who leech off the reporting and investigative skills of others. Nevertheless, when their conclusions/biases/prevarications are examined and exposed, it’s clear their motto should be “No thinking allowed.”

Silly hot-air rhetoric aside, the numbers in the Sunday report must be viewed in context of the state’s overall growth and progress in the past 10 years. Energy development surely has been a big part of the brightening picture, but a historically strong ag sector and diversification of the economy – especially in the bigger cities – cannot be minimized. State government, which prior to the economic boom, had been struggling with austerity budgets for decades, at last was able to begin the process of catch-up. That is, long-neglected priorities from education to infrastructure – neglected because the revenue was not there to address real needs – no longer are being shortchanged.

Consider that the biggest increases have come in education at all levels and in transportation, primarily roads, bridges and road repairs.

The Legislature frequently has been accused of not appropriating enough for K-12 schools and higher education. But the record confirms lawmakers have been appropriately generous to public education, even if a strong case can be made that much of 10-year funding increase was making up for years of not stepping up for schools and universities.

The money going into roads, not only in oil country but also in other parts of the state, is unprecedented. It’s predicated on demonstrated needs that range from a startling increase in traffic in the Oil Patch to flood-damaged roads in the Red River Valley. It should come as no surprise, even to myopic critics that the largest bump in the budget has been at the Department of Transportation.

The necessary spending has been accompanied by responsible establishment of funds and reserves in anticipation of the day, which surely will come, when the state’s financial picture is not as bright. It’s all been accomplished by legislative action to significantly reduce property and income taxes, with more tax relief expected from the 2015 session.

The news is good. It should be applauded, not dismissed and mischaracterized as too much government spending.


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Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.