Rep. Eliot Glassheim, D-Grand Forks, is apparently not a happy man. And western North Dakota could pay the price.
Glassheim, upset at the House's decision to cut $32.8 million from Gov. Jack Dalrymple's propsed budget of $648.2 million for higher education and other proposals passed by the House, including an effort to force the University of North Dakota to keep the Fighting Sioux nickname, publicly stated that he is becoming less inclined to support money for western North Dakota infrastructure relating to the oil industry.
''I'd very much like to support investment in strengthening the future of oil development in the state, but there's got to be some balance and reciprocity here,'' Glassheim said. ''I'm getting less and less interested in pouring a billion dollars into the west.''
We're not naive enough to think that sort of political deal-making isn't a common occurence in the Legislature. But we're surprised at the public and inappropriate method by which Glassheim chose to make his statement.
It seems to us there is already plenty of "balance and reciprocity" in the higher ed budget, which includes $10.5 million for the renovation and expansion of Bisek Hall at the North?Dakota State College of Science at Wahpeton and $14.3 million for a new information technology center at the University of North Dakota in?Grand Forks. Traditionally, UND and North Dakota State University in Fargo haven't been shortchanged at all in the budgeting process. They've always gotten their fair share, and often more.
And the governor's proposed budget isn't "pouring a billion dollars into the west," as Glassheim said. Dalrymple included $200 million for road improvements in western North Dakota, and another $150 million for county and township road repairs. We wonder when the last time Glassheim drove through oil country to see the road conditions firsthand.
If Glassheim gets frustrated enough, maybe he'll join his wayward Wisconsin brethren in their Illinois hideout. In addition, perhaps such territorial comments by Glassheim will lessen the enthusiasm of western North Dakota lawmakers to support eastern budget initiatives. Some officials from eastern North Dakota have in the past described Fargo as the economic engine of North Dakota, but let's not forget where the oil and gas to run that engine comes from.