North Dakota Democrats Want To Use Flooding As An Excuse For Wealth Redistribution

“Never let a good crisis go to waste” seems to the the motto for our current political age, and here in North Dakota the Democrats want to use the crisis of flooding in Bismarck and Minot to justify some wealth redistribution.

Many flood victims are hoping the state will help them pay to fix the damage, but Republican legislative leaders say it would be wrong to give them a false sense of hope.

Al Carlson, R-Fargo, said: “As much as we`d like to help, and they say yes, you have a big surplus, it`s just not something that we legally can do, is to start picking winners and losers, and whose house we buy and whose house we don`t, and whose remodel we pay for and whose remodel we don`t.”

Republicans say it would be unconstitutional to fork over a big chunk of money to flood victims, but Democrats say it`s the right thing to do, especially since it was recently discovered that the state general fund has an additional $230 million in it.

“We have the money. Maybe it`s time for us to stand up for the folks of North Dakota and not let them hang out there without any help or without any hope of help,” said Jerry Kelsh, D-Fullerton.

Rep. Carlson is referring to Article X, Section 18 of the state’s constitution which is pretty clear on the matter:

“…neither the state nor any political subdivision thereof shall otherwise loan or give its credit or make donations to or in aid of any individual, association or corporation except for reasonable support of the poor, nor subscribe to or become the owner of capital stock in any association or corporation…

In other words, the state cannot simply take our tax dollars and give them to some individual or business. Of course, this has never stopped the state and its political subdivisions from owning stock in companies, or making loans to companies, in the name of economic development but that’s a matter currently being challenged before the state Supreme Court.

But I digress. Our state’s infidelity to the constitution in economic development matters does not justify infidelity in this matter.

Yet, there is a way the state can help I think. While it’s illegal for the state to simply give individual flood victims money, the state does have the power to buy land. It would make a lot of sense, from a policy perspective, for the state to buy up many of the homes inundated by flooding and use that land to create a flood plain where future flooding can be allowed to happen without destroying homes and infrastructure.

North Dakota National Guard Adjutant General David Sprynczynatyk has already estimated the impact of this spring’s flooding at over $1 billion. The taxpayers are on the hook for paying that bill regardless, but for a one-time cost of a fraction of that total the state directly (or through the political subdivisions) could buy up flooded properties from owners for fair market value and use the land to create a flood plain.

Rather than redistributing wealth indiscriminately as Democrats want to do, this would put money in the pockets of flood victims in a legal manner, and provide us our best defense going forward against future flood disasters.

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • yy4u2

    I agree with the buying up the land to create a flood plain…sort of.  Who sold these people, these areas, these towns the bill of goods that it would be ok to build in these areas?  Who profitted from the building of the dams, the sale of the land, the building of the homes, the property taxes for how many years?  If these homeowners have to bite the bullet, then a lot of records need to be looked into and pocket books of the counties, cities, real estate developers, and the Corps of Engineers need to make it happen.  As for the legislators in the article, Carlson is right and Kelsh is wrong.  Using other peoples’ money to make another group of people feel good is not right but the statist’s way.  As an outdoor person, I would rather these areas be as they were decades ago with the caveat that they be non-motorized accessible to the public.

    • VocalYokel

      I agree with the idea of purchasing this land at a fair market value where it can be shown that to do so would be in the interest of ‘controlling’ future flooding and keeping people out of harm’s way.

      I do however have an issue with advocating an investigation into whether or not any chicanery was involved in the sale and / or development of these properties.
      While I am definitely an advocate of justice, my reluctance to do so stems from several things.

      What if it were established that these sales (some of which may have taken place decades ago) were between family members, or the property had been bequeathed over a number of generations?
      Who do we go after for reparations?

      Development of parcels of land, whether owned by municipalities or individuals, may have occurred utilizing the best knowledge available at the time.
      How do we prove who knew what, and when?

      As far as “who profited from the building of the dams…the property taxes for how many years?”
      I’m willing to bet it can be shown that property owners who sold their land for the dam(s) profited.
      Do we go after the seller for the malfeasance of the buyer?
      Surely the owners of land that didn’t flood because of the dam(s) could be shown to have gained something from it.
      And the list of people who benefited in one form or another from the property taxes is probably at least as long as Chris Matthew’s tingling leg.

      But my biggest concern is who’s going to take charge of this litigation behemoth.
      Even presuming the competence of the ND Attorney General (and I don’t) to pull this off, the bill would wind up in the lap of Taxpayers.

      The Feds?
      Anyone who has a semblance of consciousness is aware of their inability to conduct things in an expeditious manner and their judicious use of Taxpayers money.

      And that just wouldn’t be right.

      IMHO the tack to take is to decide “What are we going to do now?” and do it.

      If there are grievances to be addressed and redress sought it should be done on a case by case basis by, and at the expense of, the individuals involved.

      • yy4u2

        Valid points and thanks for bringing them up.  Other things to consider:  How is the “fair market” determined now?  Will it be based off of farm land, what it would be had no flood occurred, or for what we know it to be:  land that Ma Nature could take in a few heart beats? 

        Up until the last couple of years (ice jams a couple of springs ago and now this flood), I would have loved to have lived along the Missouri but could not afford it.  I’m sure there is still plenty of money in mortgages in these areas that are literally under water.  Not that I don’t have a heart and put in some long days humping sand bags, but how is it my fault and why should my tax dollars pay them off when my own house isn’t paid off? 

        I don’t think there is an easy answer.  I feel for all of them. 

        • VocalYokel

          I wish it was as simple as nailing the people whose incompetence and lack of diligence may have exacerbated this, and solving it was as easy as throwing money at it.
          I have friends who lost many of their possessions plus their house and several outbuildings.
          For them It is akin to a death in the family, and I feel like the mourner who doesn’t know what to say except, “I’m sorry.”
          So I lend a hand where I can, send a few bucks to the Red Cross, and try to remember to be grateful for all those little things that I so easily take for granted.

  • headward

    Democrats not wanting to wanting to follow the constitution?  I’m shocked!

  • Kevin Flanagan

    Why bother buying a flood insurance policy if the government will just pay for any damage?

  • Jamermorrow

    Moral Hazards has become the normal so why not?