And Just When It Was Getting Fun,
That’s right. The 15th Special Session of the ND Legislature ended this morning when the only bill under consideration was passed as presented and without amendments.
Not that there was not an attempt to do so. As I mentioned yesterday, several Democrats in both chambers offered amendments intended to help our fellow citizens now instead of next session. And one outgoing (“outgoing” as in leaving, not gregarious) representative offered an amendment to cut even more than the Governor and the Republican leadership wanted. His amendment failed for a lack of a second in the House Appropriations committee, a testament to the discipline of the Republican caucus who came in focused like a laser beam on meeting the legislative obligation to produce a balanced budget.
So what’s next? Sadly, that is a difficult question to answer because while the Governor has ordered the cuts to all general funded agencies, none of them have yet disclosed in which areas the axe will fall. Between February’s allotment of 4.05% and the most recent allotment of 2.5%, agencies and institutions will have had to cut 6.55% of their 2015–2017 budgets.
The first allotment was difficult enough but it came early enough in the biennium that most of the budget had not yet been spent. Agency heads were able to postpone implementation of some of their projects and plans while leaving open positions unfilled and curtailing travel. Doing so allowed most agencies to avoid eliminating positions and imposing a heavier workload on those employees that remained.
This time around, however, those cuts are not going to be as easy to find. For example, Valley City State will have had to cut $2.6M from its original budget. Where will those cuts come from? Will they have to cut staff to meet the requirement? These are questions being asked by NDU members in state agencies and on university campuses across the state.
ND United is encouraging agency heads and college and university presidents to be very inclusive of their employees as they make these difficult decisions. We are encouraging them to think creatively about how they can avoid laying off our public employees who provide the vital services that North Dakotans depend on every day. It is wrong to balance the budget on the backs of the people who make this state work.
Make no mistake about it. North Dakota is at a crossroads and the 65th Legislative Assembly, as has been acknowledged by Democrats and Republicans alike, will have its hands full when they convene on January 3, 2017.
No one party has cornered the market on good ideas. I encourage the leadership of both parties to include all of the peoples’ representatives in the discussion of how to solve our challenges. Our state works best when both sides in the Legislature work together. As voters, do not wait until January to share that simple fact with your state Senators and Representatives. And for the sake of all of us, get involved and stay involved until we get the results we deserve from the people we elect.
ND United will continue to advocate fiercely for our members but we cannot do it alone. We look forward to working with you now and always on behalf of great public schools and great public service.