Is Dalrymple’s Infrastructure Proposal Too Little Too Late?
The big news today here in North Dakota was Governor Jack Dalrymple announcing a plan for $2.5 billion in new “one-time” spending on roads.
We really ought to pass a law requiring that ND politicians stop using this “one time spending” ruse. Roads don’t stop costing money after they’re built. But I digress.
The talking point among Democrats in the state is that Republicans haven’t spent enough money fast enough on infrastructure. They also claim that Dalrymple delayed his announcement of this funding for political reasons. These are also arguments made by Great Plains Examiner editor Matt Bunk.
“I also wish Dalrymple’s press release didn’t make him sound like some sort of grand visionary who stepped into the great beyond and returned with a revelation that communities in the oil patch will soon need more help from the state,” writes Bunk. “After all, the same conclusion could have been drawn a year ago by reading newspaper headlines, visiting Williston or using a telephone to talk with people who live in western North Dakota.”
Was Dalrymple’s announcement timed for maximum political impact? I don’t doubt it. Should the spending have come faster? I’m not so sure.
The conventional wisdom among some political observes like Bunk, who seem to be working off how they feel rather than the facts, is that we need to throw money at the west. But indiscriminate spending is hardly good policy.
I would remind you readers that in the last legislative session, held just last year, more than $1 billion in spending was approved for western infrastructure. Since then tens of millions more have been granted in impact grants and other interim spending approvals.
Most of the projects those appropriations were made for haven’t even been completed yet. Now we’re putting even more spending in the works.
At first blush I don’t have a problem with what the governor is proposing. You cannot see the sort of economic and social growth we’ve seen in the oil patch, and even state wide, without needing to spend some money on infrastructure. What I do have a problem with is this cheer leading for indiscriminate spending in the west.
And, believe it or not, there may be some angling to use oil impact as an excuse for bureaucratic expansion. “Never let a good crisis go to waste” is the attitude some need to be taking.
Plus, some are setting the bar too high. Traffic growth on some roads is growing at rates measured in the high double and even triple digits. Population growth isn’t far behind. It would require the decisiveness of a dictator to keep up with that sort of growth, and we don’t live in a dictatorship. The wheels of democracy turn slowly, for a lot of excellent reasons.
Avoiding irresponsible spending growth in these heady economic times in North Dakota requires measured leadership.Tags: great plains examiner, jack dalrymple, matt bunk, North Dakota News