I was talking with Sen. Rich Wardner about an issue today. Wardner is the Republican majority leader in the North Dakota Senate. When we finished with the topic I called about, I asked him what else was happening in the North Dakota Legislature, which meets every other year.
“We have a lot of money,” he told me. “Everybody wants it. We’ve got to make sure we invest it properly.”
There are probably a lot of lawmakers in other states who would love to have Wardner’s problem. North Dakota’s treasury has hit a gusher with all the energy development taking place there.
But like an lottery winner quickly finds, you’ve got a lot of requests for some of that money. “Now, everybody is coming out of the woodwork,” Wardner said.
For all the requests, Wardner is determined not to build unsustainable spending into his state’s budget. “People need to understand that it’s sustainable,” he said. “Any of your ongoing spending has to be sustainable.”
One of the big things North Dakota will do is take a greater role in education funding and reduce property taxes for local property owners.
He also sees one-time money being sent to make flood protection improvements in Fargo, aid to local governments in the oil patch who need help with roads and infrastructure, as well as money to keep their employees. And the state needs money for water projects.
Water projects? Maybe now would be a good time to expand the Lewis & Clark Regional Water System to North Dakota.