The state Supreme Court couldn't have spoken more clearly recently in two unanimous rulings that economic development programs such as Minot's MAGIC Fund are legal.
Robert Hale sued the state Commerce Department, the City of Minot and Minot Area Development Corp., among others, arguing that programs such as the MAGIC Fund and MADC were illegally giving taxpayer money to private businesses. The other lawsuit was brought by Curly Haugland against the City of Bismarck.
In both cases, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that state and local governments can run economic development programs if they promote the broad public good. The court also ruled that opponents of such programs were misinterpreting a constitutional provision saying state and local governments were not allowed to loan or donate money, extend credit or buy stock in private enterprises "except for reasonable support of the poor."
Justice Daniel Crothers wrote: "Economic development programs are 'an enterprise for a public purpose, (and) governmental entities engaged in that enterprise may extend credit, make loans or make donations in furtherance of those programs.' "
In other words, the Supreme Court clearly and concisely ruled that Hale and Haugland are wrong in arguing that entities like the MAGIC Fund and MADC are illegal. Such programs are legal, the justices unanimously ruled, and the Constitution says they are legal, despite other interpretations.
But we'd be extremely naive if we thought this would be the end of Hale's personal crusade against taxpayer-aided economic development programs. Unfortunately, he appears to have the spare time and financial means necessary to continue filing lawsuits, which take up valuable time and resources for the city of Minot, both of which could be better spent on other issues.