Our view: ND taxpayers need to see security costs
Herald editorial board All public dollars must be accounted for, and every person has a right to know where and how those dollars are spent. This should never be privileged information, and those of us who pay taxes to fund government must always...
Herald editorial board
All public dollars must be accounted for, and every person has a right to know where and how those dollars are spent. This should never be privileged information, and those of us who pay taxes to fund government must always have access to information that accounts for every single penny.
That's why we strongly believe North Dakota's governor's office should provide an annual accounting of dollars associated with Gov. Doug Burgum's security detail. In fact, we were surprised - perhaps stunned - to learn it doesn't already happen.
Last week, Forum News Service reported that lawmakers are pushing a bill to require the state Highway Patrol to disclose the costs of protecting Burgum. In the report, Rep. Bill Devlin, R-Finley, said lawmakers are frustrated by the lack of financial disclosure. Devlin also said passage of the bill would help guide future budgetary decisions.
Devlin said it's about open government, and we couldn't agree more.
Specifically, HB 1363 would require the Highway Patrol to provide records to legislative staff disclosing the costs of security and transportation for Burgum and Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford. The bill would require the Department of Transportation to do the same for costs associated with the state's aircraft fleet.
State Rep. Corey Mock, D-Grand Forks, last year sought information about these costs, but the Highway Patrol said it doesn't track specific expenses. The agency should.
One excuse: A state audit last year declared there were "no issues" to report regarding security provided by the Highway Patrol and that details would not be provided "due to the confidentiality of executive security."
In the Forum News Service report, Highway Patrol Col. Brandon Solberg suggested that perhaps there could be a way for legislators to see the information, yet to keep it confidential otherwise.
That's a bad idea.
There must be no - repeat no - confidentiality whatsoever when it comes to use of taxpayer dollars.
Actually, let us rephrase that: There can be some confidentiality in the details of protecting the governor, but never in the amount of dollars used to fund it.
Gov. Burgum and Lt. Gov. Sanford deserve protection and we have no problem using taxpayer dollars to do it. Times are changing. The loose security standards of the not-so-distant past - when governors traveled unaccompanied - rightfully are being phased out and updated.
We have seen the governor's security firsthand and wholeheartedly agree it is necessary and a long time coming.
We do not need to see a line-by-line financial sheet on details of that security, but we deserve to know exactly what it costs. Allowing us to see these numbers will not jeopardize the governor's safety.
Too, it's just bad practice to ever have a government agency tell the people - including state lawmakers and the press - that they cannot know how taxpayer dollars are spent.
Devlin and other lawmakers backing HB 1363 are right and they should press to get this bill passed - not just so we can see how much it costs for the governor's security, but so we can be assured a precedent is not set that would allow other government spending to be kept in the dark.