Tight with money -- except own salaries
Despite almost a $1 billion surplus, North Dakota legislators were skinflints. Misers. Cheaper than their suits. They've taken the extra money, put it in a sock, hid it in the mattress, buried the mattress 6 feet deep in the Badlands and burned t...
Despite almost a $1 billion surplus, North Dakota legislators were skinflints. Misers. Cheaper than their suits.
They've taken the extra money, put it in a sock, hid it in the mattress, buried the mattress 6 feet deep in the Badlands and burned the map.
They call it a "rainy day" fund. Given their history, the rains need to be of ark-building proportions to tap the fund.
They used the federal stimulus money for projects that were slated to be paid for by the state. This slippery maneuver was made despite federal government warnings that the money needed to be spent on something new, not just re-funneled. I won't tell the feds if you don't.
With this switcheroo, they went out and bought a bigger sock, a bigger mattress and a bigger shovel.
OK, they haven't been miserly with everything. For instance, they spend $52 million to more than double the size of the North Dakota Heritage Center.
And they gave some raises -- to themselves. They may normally be tightwads who pinch pennies until Lincoln's beard erodes, but they take care of No. 1.
They voted themselves a daily pay increase from $135 to $141 on July 1 and then to $148 on July 1, 2010. When they're next in session, each legislator's pay will be $1,036 a week.
When they're not in session, legislators also receive a monthly salary. That will rise from $378 to $396 a month on July 1 and to $415 a month on July 1, 2010.
Their housing allowance also went from $900 to $1,000 a month, an 11 percent hike.
And the state picks up their entire health insurance cost. Does your employer do that? Mine neither.
These are the same legislators who killed improvements to a health insurance program for children.
Maybe they deserve a raise. But it seems hypocritical that the majority is unwilling to invest in the state's future, yet is willing to invest in themselves.
And although North Dakota is in better economic condition than just about every other state, we have residents who have lost their jobs, lost work hours and have frozen salaries. Given that, at the very least, their raise-granting is bad manners.
But it doesn't surprise me. At least the Legislature was consistent in its decision-making in a contentious, childish, clueless and backward-looking session.
It may be time to vote on name recognition. If you recognize the name, vote for the opponent.
Reach Bakken at (701) 780-1125; (800) 477-6572, ext. 125; or send e-mail to email@example.com .