FARGO — North Dakota is receiving a billion dollars it didn't ask for and doesn't need from the federal government through the American Rescue Plan Act. It’s a $1.9 trillion coronavirus “rescue package” designed to facilitate the United States' recovery from the devastating economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. President Joe Biden doesn’t have a good track record on “rescues” these days.
Gov. Doug Burgum has proposed how our $1 billion could be spent, based on a nearly $6 billion dollar wish list from state agencies. The Legislature will be the ultimate decider when they meet starting Nov. 8. But, it's your money, so I would encourage you to let the governor and legislators know your suggestions on how these dollars should be expended.
Christmas has come early for North Dakota, mostly because the Biden administration has a need to bail out poorly run metropolitan cities and states. It's no coincidence that these big cities and blue states are governed by Democrats. They love taxes and they love spending, but they're not very good at managing a crisis.
We do not need a bailout, so how should we spend it? I have a few ideas:
Send it back. Would it be so bad to stand on principle and send a message that it is immoral to conduct generational theft? While that might not be the most popular idea, it would be the closest to what the founding fathers envisioned for how our tax dollars should be spent.
We pay a growing percentage of our income on taxes, so let's invest it in our future by converting the slush fund into investments in hard infrastructure. Investments that grow the tax base and reduce future taxation for our citizens. Highways and bridges, water supply, natural gas service statewide and career tech centers: all of these would be one time investments that pay dividends for decades.
Devise a plan that makes North Dakota No. 1 in solving the workforce crisis in this country. Leverage every dollar by doubling it with match programs. Examples:
The current crisis in health care is less a product of battling a pandemic and more a shortage of nurses we've seen build in the past 10 years. How about an intensive campaign to recruit nurses?
A lack of child care is a huge barrier to bringing more people into the workforce. Let's try innovation over regulation, and make North Dakota a model of growing child care capacity in businesses.
And finally, how about we grow our own and take immediate action? Give every North Dakota employer the opportunity to recruit high school, trade school or college graduates and give them a big bonus if they commit to staying in the North Dakota workforce for three years. Let experts decide the best percentage increase in annual salaries, which would put us in a position to keep North Dakota a more attractive career location.
Those are just a few of my ideas, tell me yours.
And have a conversation with a legislator before the special session on Nov. 8.
Scott Hennen hosts the statewide radio program “What’s On Your Mind?” On AM 1100 “The Flag”, KFYR AM 550, AM 1090 KTGO “The Flag” and AM 1460 KLTC. Email him at ScottH@FlagFamily.com