It’s a common quip heard throughout the years, and especially to the editorial board of the Grand Forks Herald.
Often, when we ask about the prospects of some budget-related item that’s important to Grand Forks, we’re told that much is possible with Ray Holmberg heading the state’s Senate Appropriation Committee.
An example: In December, Gov. Doug Burgum visited and discussed his hopes for the 2019 session of the Legislature. The visit came shortly after Burgum’s regular pre-session budget speech.
During the hour-long speech before members of the Legislature, the governor never mentioned a sweeping proposal that would have boosted research dollars at the state’s largest universities.
We asked if that meant the proposal – which we deemed so very important for Grand Forks – is dead.
“I would say as long as you have (Holmberg) as the head of Appropriations, nothing is dead for Grand Forks,” the governor replied.
Former Gov. Jack Dalrymple told the Herald in 2016 that “as governor, I’m not worried about Ray getting done what he wants to get done. I have watched him over the years succeed again and again and again.”
Dalrymple called Holmberg “the best deliverer of bacon that I have ever seen.”
“We back him up,” Dalrymple said. “We helped him put together the deal out at the (Grand Forks) UAS center that came really late to us.”
Tuesday, Holmberg was given the Energy Champion Award by UND’s Energy and Environmental Research Center. Tom Erickson, CEO of the EERC, said the award only has gone an elite group; only 10 have received it since its inception in 1986, including four U.S. senators. The award’s intent is to honor those who have had an extraordinary personal commitment to energy and environmental research and development.
Holmberg has served in the Legislature for four decades and has gained influence as head of the Senate Appropriations Committee. In North Dakota, where there are no term limits for members of the Legislature, lawmakers can gain power that does not exist in other states. As the head of the all-important Appropriations Committee, Holmberg wields clout.
Being a Republican in a GOP-dominated Legislature certainly doesn’t hurt.
His ability to do all of this while maintaining his role as chairman of Appropriations, tells us his colleagues do not feel Holmberg is enriching Grand Forks at the expense of others. That hints at an ability to get along with fellow lawmakers.
During Tuesday’s ceremony at the EERC, Erickson credited Holmberg with helping secure funding to create the State Energy Research Center. The center will receive $5 million per biennium to conduct innovative research.
Millions of state dollars have rolled in for other important projects in the past, too.
Holmberg cannot get credit for all of these dollars, of course, since he owns just a single vote. And as a member of the Legislature, he still must be judged for his overall voting record – not just for dollars he helps bring to his hometown. Perhaps some future Herald editorial will be critical of Holmberg for some vote or another.
But today, in the wake of the rare honor bestowed by the EERC, Holmberg deserves credit.