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LETTER: Conservation amendment invites corruption

BISMARCK — The Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks Amendment will be a travesty if voters pass the measure.

I am not opposed to spending on conservation; we already have a system in place for that — a system with checks and balances. But the only check and balance on this new fourth branch of government will be the checks they write and hundreds of millions of dollars in their bank balance to cover the checks.

I hear $130 million per biennium taxed and spent. Tally in the growth of oil production and the subsequent increase in tax revenue, and the figure will be closer to $230 million — and that is still a conservative estimate.

Whatever the amount, that much cash places too much power in the hands of an unelected, unaccountable government agency. There isn’t a thing the legislative assembly, the governor, the court or the citizens could do about the board’s actions because its spending will be shielded by the North Dakota Constitution.

The first attempt to bring this measure to a vote ended with criminal charges for corruption. The amount of cash under the control of the proposed board will not just invite the corruption, it will foster corruption.

Using the low estimate of $130 million per biennium, cash mandated to the board pencils out to approximately $178,000 of spending every day, seven days a week, for the 730 days of the biennium. That amount of money will corrupt the unaccountable board and the people who do business with that board.

The voters of this state ought to vehemently oppose any constitutional amendment that mandates inflexible spending. It is bad government to take options from elected legislators — individuals who are subject to public pressure — and place those options in the hands of a board that is beyond the control of anybody.

Roger Kaseman