The third and final debate today in North Dakota’s political races was between gubernatorial candidates Ryan Taylor and Jack Dalrymple. The interesting thing about this debate, which I know my Republican friends don’t want to hear, is that there isn’t a lot of ideological daylight between these two candidates. They both believe in big, energetic government. There objections with one another are not a matter of ideology or philosophy so much as a matter of degree. A SAB reader texted me during the debate to sum it up this way:
Gov. Dalrymple: I would spend $1 on that problem.
Sen. Taylor: I would spend $2 on that problem.
That’s about it. Below is the full audio from the debate. Here are a few notes I jotted down.
- Taylor kicked off the event in his opening statement by saying there’s “no personal animosity” between him and Governor Dalrymple. That’s sure a departure from his nomination acceptance speech at his party’s state convention where he railed against a statewide Republican culture of “corruption,” etc., etc. Agree with Taylor or not, if he’s going to stay like this he could at least have the cojones to stick with it.
- Taylor was pretty critical of the oil boom. He jabbed at Republicans for taking credit for “what God put under the soil” (a criticism I agree with) but then went on to say we haven’t spent enough to respond to the oil boom (funny criticism given that Taylor’s fellow Democrat Heidi Heitkamp ripped Republicans for spending in a debate earlier in the day). Dalrymple’s response? Yes we have to spent enough, and we’re spending more too!
- Taylor’s property tax plan is just plain bizarre. After calling housing “a public/private partnership” (come again?), he talked about property taxes. He pointed out that Measure 2 (a ballot measure voted on in June which would have, if passed, eliminated property taxes in the state) wouldn’t have been on the ballot if what Dalrymple is proposing for property tax relief worked. He’s right. Dalrymple’s property tax plan is more of the same. He’s even counting property tax “relief” (it’s really just more local spending) that’s already in place as new relief in the plan he’s campaigning on. But Taylor’s plan would give property tax relief by giving people…an income tax deduction. And a lot of people who don’t pay the property tax at all would get it. Dalrymple’s plan won’t solve anything, but Taylor’s plan would create worse problems.
- The candidates talked extensively about higher education Taylor said, “We don’t need wholesale change in higher education.” He talked of reform measures before the legislature “politicizing” higher education, but that’s exactly the problem with higher education. There are too few ties between those who administer higher education policy and the taxpayers. Politics is democracy. Higher ed absolutely needs to be politicized.
- When Dalrymple talked about higher education he wasn’t a lot better than Taylor. He acknowledged problems in higher education, but said we should “focus on the positives.” And just ignore the bad? He then went on to poo-poo the student loan debt problem, suggesting the solution is to create more good-paying jobs. Apparently Dalrymple isn’t convinced that we have a problem with a higher education bubble, which is a little scary.
- Both candidates were asked about the initiated measure process, and questioned about if it needs to be harder to put a measure on the ballot. Both said the process is fine. Dalrymple called the NDSU petition fraud scandal “tragic,” but said it’s the exception not the rule. Taylor suggested the number of issues brought to the ballot is evidence of dissatisfaction with the state government. Dalrymple said that the number of them which fail is evidence the government is doing just fine.
- On wind subsidies Dalrymple surprised me by seeming to suggest that they be phased out. Taylor, however, gave full-throated support for the subsidies. Dalrymple suggested that it was good the subsidies were created in the first place, but they shouldn’t have been a year-to-year policy and if they’re going to go away they should be phased out. He didn’t express direct support for keeping them. I would have thought he’d be a lot more outspoken in support.
- The candidates were asked about Obamacare. Taylor ripped Republicans for not implementing the state health care exchanges, suggesting that they were somehow ceding control to the federal government. Dalrymple pointed out, rightly, that the exchanges would have to be created using federal guidelines and that the feds have a bad habit of breaking the promises down the road once the states are on the hook. Thus, the exchanges don’t really represent local control at all.
- Taylor’s closing statement was interesting. He really teed off on the oil boom, suggesting that North Dakotans shouldn’t have to pick up newspapers and “read headlines that scare them.” It was outright fear-mongering about the oil boom, and I wonder if that isn’t starting to sound a bit shrill in the ears of some North Dakotans.