The politics around compensation for elected officials are always strange. The taxpayers see lavish pay and perks as being unseemly, and perhaps rightfully so in some situations, but at times the public’s opposition to anything increasing the pay or comfort of public officials borders on the absurd.
Right now many legislators serving in Bismarck are going out of pocket to pay for meals and lodging because state reimbursement rates are too low. Legislators get a pittance, too, in terms of pay for the time they serve. And believe it or not, but the Governor North Dakota absolutely needs a new residence. The current residence has a host of problems – including mold, asbestos and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act – and it would be more cost effective to tear down the current residence and build a new one.
But Governor Dalrymple, like Governor Hoeven before him, is opposed to building a new residence because they don’t want to be seen as self-serving. They’re so afraid of public backlash that they won’t speak in favor of a new residence even when it’s clear one is needed.
Today the state House debated and voted down a bill, HB1379 introduced by Rep. Randy Boehning, which would have appropriated funds from the state building fund (as well as some private dollars) for a new residence.
Here’s the video of the floor debate:
Rep. Jerry Kelsch argued that the legislature shouldn’t approve a new residence if the governor isn’t speaking in favor of it. I thought Rep. Jim Kasper had a nice rebuttal, though. “It’s not the governor’s position to make this decision,” said Rep. Kasper pointing out that asking the governor to weigh in on the bill puts him in an awkward spot, “it’s this body’s position to make this decision.”
Of course, if the legislature had approved this bill, I’m told the governor would have vetoed it anyway, so it’s a moot point.