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Give Democrats chance to help western N.D.

PARSHALL, N.D. — The Herald’s story, “Oil Patch leaders to Legislature: Show us the money,” accurately describes the unpleasant truth about today’s North Dakota Legislature (Page B5, Feb. 6).

Williston finance commissioner Brad Bekkedahl described the reality well when he said: “They (the Legislature) never fund the need.”

As Bekkedahl asks, “How do we get the oil and gas counties to convince the North Dakota Legislature to fund the need?”

The answer is relatively easy, but it may not be possible as long as the oil and gas counties are unwilling to challenge the Republican supermajority in the Legislature to do more.

In fact, many leaders from oil counties and communities seem afraid to stand up to the indifference of the Republican supermajority because so many Republican legislators seem content to deny the problems created by rapid oil development.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The truth is that some of us have tried to respond to Bekkedahl’s concerns with real solutions.

North Dakota Democrats introduced legislation in the 2013 Legislature that focused on oil counties and communities. North Dakota Democrats proposed dedicating 100 percent of the oil production tax for two years to oil counties and communities. The Republican supermajority killed these bills with little consideration given to the merits.

The Herald story quotes Williston Mayor Ward Koeser telling Gov. Jack Dalrymple that it’s not right for our state to sit on billions of dollars in various funds while the communities in western North Dakota are being forced to borrow money. Koeser’s right. But such change will not come fast enough as long as one party controls state government.

The Herald did an excellent job in covering this story. The story completely reflects the attitudes I hear from so many constituents in my district.

I ask the Herald to add further dimension to this major story by looking into the legislation that has been introduced over the past three sessions by North Dakota Democrats. These proposals would have met many of these needs and mitigated the problems facing so many western counties and communities.

I will be more than happy to give the Herald all the bill numbers and sponsors, as I know them well.

I also know this: The only way to change things in western North Dakota is to bring back balance to the North Dakota Legislature.

Kenton Onstad

State Rep. Onstad, D-Parshall, is minority leader of the North Dakota House.