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Mike Martin, Enderlin, N.D., Published November 23 2013

Letter: We should be ‘blue with rage’

The Sunday, Nov. 10, Forum headline “ND spending swells” is a misnomer. “ND spending explodes” is more accurate. However, The Forum should be commended for an excellent job in framing up our state’s record budget increases. The numbers should give pause to all residents and maybe cause as many sleepless nights.

Fifteen years ago, if a prophet guaranteed $13.7 billion revenue for the 2013-15 biennium budget, one would see politicians promising the end of the state sales tax, no property taxes and a state-supplied servant in every household (perhaps a bit of an exaggeration). The oil boom and dynamic farm economy delivered this revenue, and the result is unsettling. No vision, no focus, but we are doing an excellent job of building an entrenched bureaucracy and rigid institutions.

Your typical North Dakotan can ask: “How has my life improved with a 300 percent increased state budget?” The honest answer is it hasn’t improved much and the standard of living has disconnected from state expenditures.

In keeping with this Cassandra theme, any politician should know the next natural step: Crude oil will tank at the same time farm commodities halve. The predictable political solution will be to shift the revenue base to property taxes, and shouldn’t record high farmland and house prices pay the way? Remember the No. 1 priority going into the last legislative session was a revamping and possible cap on property taxes.

North Dakota has been blessed with unbelievable opportunities, and we have become the talk of the nation. Those who settled and shaped our state 100-plus years ago would be green with envy as to our recent fortunes. They would also be blue with rage at our lack of imagination and discipline. We truly live in a land of milk and honey, but debt and disappointment is as close as $35 a barrel crude and $2.60 a bushel corn.