By Rep. Kenton Onstad, Published February 14 2014
Letter: Restore balance in NDThe Grand Forks Herald’s story “Oil Patch Leaders to Legislature: Show Us the Money” accurately describes the unpleasant truth about today’s North Dakota Legislature. Williston finance commissioner Brad Bekkedahl described the reality well when he said: “They (the Legislature) never fund the need.”
As Bekkedahl asks, “How do we get the oil and gas counties to convince the North Dakota Legislature to fund the need?” The answer is relatively easy, but it may not be possible as long as the oil and gas counties are unwilling to challenge the Republican supermajority in the Legislature to do more. In fact, many leaders from oil counties and communities seem afraid to stand up to the indifference of the Republican supermajority because so many Republican legislators seem content to deny the problems created by rapid oil development.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The truth is that some of us have tried to respond to Bekkedahl’s concerns with real solutions. Democrats introduced legislation in the 2013 Legislature that focused on oil counties and communities. Democrats proposed dedicating 100 percent of the oil production tax for two years to oil counties and communities. The Republican supermajority killed these bills with little consideration given to the merits.
The Herald story quotes Williston Mayor Ward Koeser telling Gov. Jack Dalrymple that it is unjustifiable for our state to sit on billions of dollars in various funds and not adequately fund the needs of western North Dakota. He’s right. But such change will not come fast enough as long as one party controls state government.
The Herald did an excellent job in covering this story. The story completely reflects the attitudes I hear from so many constituents in my district. I ask the Herald to add further dimension to this major story by looking into the legislation that has been introduced over the past three sessions by North Dakota Democrats. These proposals would have met many of these needs and mitigated the problems facing so many western counties and communities.
I also know this: The only way to change things in western North Dakota is to bring back balance to the Legislature.
Onstad, D-Parshall, is North Dakota House minority leader.