Why Does North Dakota Need A 25% Increase In Human Services Spending?


North Dakotans have become used to stories, in the past few years, extolling the state’s booming economy. North Dakota has some of the fastest growing employment numbers, and lowest unemployment rates. Personal incomes in North Dakota are growing faster than anywhere else in the nation.

Yet, according to Governor Jack Dalrymple’s executive budget recommendations, we need a 25% increase in human services spending.

The governor’s budget, “Provides a total general fund appropriation for the Department of Human Services of $1,176.9 million, $235.9 million, or 25.1 percent, more than the $941.0 million appropriated for the 2011-13 biennium,” according to an analysis from Legislative Management’s Budget Section.

The budget increase is to cover departing federal funds (leaving thanks to the state’s growing prosperity), as well as increased funding for administration of programs like SNAP (food stamps). But the question is, why do we have to spend more tax dollars in these areas if the state is becoming more prosperous?

Some might argue that the oil boom has created issues of its own. Rising prices, including rising rate, are hurting the impoverished. The influx of workers creates needs for human services, too. That might be understandable, to a point, but if we accept that argument entirely we’re left with this reality:

Social services spending goes up in good times and in bad.

In years past, when the state wasn’t seeing the rapid growth in population and prosperity it’s seeing now, the Human Services budget went up. And now that we have rapid population growth and prosperity, the Human Services budget is still going up. And not at any small rate of increase, either. As is stated above, the governor’s 25% increase in spending takes the Human Services budget over $1 billion for the first time in state history.

Public assistance programs are supposed to provide a safety net. But when times are good, when work is plentiful, shouldn’t that safety net (and the burden it represents to the taxpayers) get smaller?

Update: Via Legislative Council, here’s the trend line for Human Services spending. Notice that the average biennium increase since 2001 has been more than 15%, and last biennium specifically Human Services got more than a 44% increase:


And here’s the breakdown by funding source (notice that federal funds are tapering off and being replaced by state general funds):


If the state is getting more prosperous, and I believe it is, shouldn’t these lines be trending down?

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.

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  • SusanBeehler

    If we had a 25% increase in raising the minimum wage it would be $7.25 an hour going to $9.06 an hour. Do you think employers will be complaining about the increase at Human Services? I think it is uncalled for and cannot be justified to increase any budget by this much! Where is the outrage?!!!

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      Increasing the minimum wage by that much in North Dakota would exacerbate problems with rising prices.

      Minimum wage is bad economic policy, and hurts young and low-skill workers.

      • headward

        Susan just hates the low skilled and uneducated workers. By raising the min wage, those (non)workers would be forever dependent on the government since they cannot be productive to any business.

  • whowon

    additional state matching funds required due to changes in the state’s federal medical
    assistance percentage (FMAP).

    $184.0 million for inpatient hospital services

    $73.3 million for outpatient hospital services

    $44.9 million for prescription drugs. Provides $20.0 million for psychiatric residential treatment facilities in the medical assistance program, to name a few in this document.

    Yet is is LAW that we have to switch to Medicare at 65. I will never understand why this law passed, why not let people who want to continue with their insurance company pay.

    What was OBCare for again?

    • SusanBeehler

      Was this the increase of these services from the previous session?

      • whowon

        read the report, some were increases, others were small decreases. SO much money is being spent for the “poor” yet some thought they weren’t getting coverage. Millions didn’t sign up their children for programs so I guess they will now that it is law. Insanity and control at it’s best.

        • SusanBeehler

          Would you share the link to the report you are referring to? I looked at a couple of the links Rob has and it shows the feds decreased funding 6.5% that does not account for the 25%, I assume you are referring to a mandate through the healthcare act to increase our state share even more then making up the 6.5%?

          • whowon

            the link is above, in 3rd paragraph. according to an analysis from Legislative Management’s Budget Section.

  • whowon

    Didn’t know we still had one, guess we would have a place to send mentally ill people who kill others but they stopped taking them. Adolescents with psychological problems or addiction issues now will be treated at private facilities around the state. When this hospital started it had 2000 patients, now it has 132 beds for adults and 75 beds for sex offenders. Sounds like a lot of money for so few people.


    • Provides $910,454 from the general fund for extraordinary repairs.

    • Provides $251,413 from the general fund for equipment over $5,000.

    • Provides one-time funding of $864,714 from the general fund for street


    • wj

      None of those expenditures relate to the number of patients served.

      Also, comparing the state hospital when it had a population of 2000 to now does not help. The population in the hospital is very different than what it was then. The patients it has now are more “difficult” and are more labor intensive.

      • whowon

        No they don’t, it is outrageous spending for an old building when we already have many of the same local services. I looked at the State Hospital site, still says they treat teenagers even though it stopped in October, 2012. More difficult then the live-in patients of years ago? Not hardly, sex offenders and addicts now. Remember when Deinstitutionalization happened? Deinstitutionalization is the name given to the policy of moving severely mentally ill people out of large state institutions and then closing part or all of those institutions; it has been a major contributing factor to the mental illness crisis. Closed a safe place for the severely mentally ill in the name of political correctness. Another fail from do-gooders doing more damage.

  • http://Sayanythingblog.com The Whistler

    They lied to us. They said the federal government was cutting their funding to the state and we had to make that up. That’s not true, we got more funding from the feds.

  • waterjoe


    I think your post fails to address the real question. The question is whether the state is expanding the number of persons served. If not, the increase is due to the federal requirements or the cost of providing services.

    If it is due to expanding the number of persons served, the next question is whether the expansion is due to changes in federal requirements. If it is, again, the problem is not the department or the Governor.

    If it is due to expanding the number persons served and it is not because of federal laws, then you need to show that these people don’t need the services. Compared to other states, North Dakota spends little in public services and the eligibility levels are among the lowest.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      I think you’re splitting hairs. If the state is becoming more prosperous, we should have to spend less on human services. Period.

  • sbark

    Why not…….that property tax money gotta go back out the door someplace…..might as well be the biggest item in a counties budget, can hide it there as good as anyplace.

  • kevindf

    Jack is just continuing to redistribute assets and income from the those of us in the private sector to his cronies on the dole.

  • Hal109

    When the state offers generous welfare benefits, there are groups migrating here to take advantage of our generosity. This is why we need a 25% increase in the Human Services budget. More to come, get used to it.