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Roosevelt library progresses in bill mandating salary for Burgum

Sen. David Hogue, R-Minot, talks with reporters after the conference committee he chaired came into agreement on Tuesday at the state Capitol in Bismarck. Mike McCleary / Bismarck Tribune

BISMARCK — Gov. Doug Burgum may get the presidential library he's lobbied hard for.

But also the salary he's sought to decline.

North Dakota's Senate on Tuesday, April 23, passed an amended two-year budget for his office that removes a provision for the wealthy former software executive to decline his salary but includes language for the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library the governor has championed this legislative session.

Earlier Tuesday afternoon, a conference committee had approved the amended governor's office budget a day after House members walked out following a failed vote on similar amendments for the library and forcing Burgum to take a salary. The first-term Republican governor has sought to decline his pay because of a 2016 campaign pledge.

Senate budget writers had included the provision allowing Burgum to decline his salary. But the House side struck that section out before conference committee, pointing to what precedent a governor declining pay might set, as well as if Burgum died or resigned and left Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford with no salary. Sanford accepts his pay.

Sen. David Hogue, R-Minot, acknowledged "strong feelings" around the governor declining a salary, saying "it's not a trivial issue, but it's not a big issue, as far as the Senate's concerned."

"We want to see the library happen, and if the governor has to take his salary ... that's how you achieve compromise and progress, is you've got to give on some of these issues," Hogue told reporters.

Senators last week approved a Roosevelt library bill in a 34-13 vote, but constitutional concerns about the bill brought the library amendments to the governor's office budget. The Senate approved the governor's office budget in an identical vote.

The amendments propose an operation endowment comprising $15 million in combined funds and authorization for a $35 million loan, only available once $100 million in cash or pledged donations are raised to build the library at Medora.

Rep. Bob Martinson, R-Bismarck, said three disagreements came up in the conference committee, including internships, some operating expenses and the governor's salary.

"The library was never an issue," Martinson said. "We put $90,000 back in (the budget) that we took out, and then he has to take his salary."

Governor's spokesman Mike Nowatzki said Burgum's intent has always been to decline his salary to "save taxpayers money," but now "he will have to" accept it and likely find a way to donate it.

Burgum donated the salary from his first six months in office to the newly created Office of Recovery Reinvented, while his salary for the current two-year budget cycle will go into the state's general fund on July 1. Lawmakers fretted in the 2017 session about how to appropriate a salary Burgum indicated he wanted to decline.

Republican majority leaders have said they want the library proposal presented in a way for both chambers to vote on it separately. At least four bills have been eyed for the library.

House Majority Leader Chet Pollert, R-Carrington, said the full House will take up the governor's office budget on Wednesday.