“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.