When A $93.4 Million Spending Increase Is “Just Something That Happens”

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This morning I tuned into the floor session in the North Dakota House to watch the debate of HB1012, the Department of Health and Human Services budget. I had thought a part of that bill would be the state’s Medicaid expansion, but apparently that portion of the bill has been peeled off for an up or down vote on its own (a good sign).

But I did catch these comments from Rep. Chet Pollert who carried the bill to the floor. He’s describing a $93.4 million increase in FMAP spending (Federal Medical Assistance Percentages), which results because North Dakota’s economy is improving. Because personal incomes in North Dakota are growing, and because the economy is strong, the federal government is pulling out some of their funding.

And the state is making that funding up, to the tune of $93.4 million. Which is “just something that happens,” according to Rep. Pollert.

I wondered, in a post at the beginning of the session, why in the world North Dakota, with one of the strongest economies in the nation, would need a 25% expansion in the human services budget (a big chunk of which are the funds Rep. Pollert is talking about) for the coming biennium. This “just something that happens” stuff is why.

When times are bad, we spend more on human services. And when times are good…we spend more on human services. It’s almost automated, and it all goes unquestioned by our elected leaders.

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. 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. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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