Gabe Thompson Jr., Antler
This past legislative session, parties from all walks of life set precedence compromising to create and pass a bill that would fund conservation and enhance North Dakota's outdoor heritage to the tune of up to $30 million a biennium. It's a plan that has widespread bipartisan support from the elected representatives of the people of North Dakota, as well as stakeholders. This commitment to conservation and the outdoors is apparently not good enough, as some organizations walked away from the table and are now collecting signatures for an initiated measure.
As a rancher, farmer and outdoor enthusiast who invests thousands of dollars incorporating conservation practices in our operation, I strongly support effective, responsible land and water stewardship programs. But the proposed measure raises some very real concerns that sponsors need to address and that people should consider before signing a petition to place this measure on the ballot.
1. The initiative mandates spending 75 percent of all funding every year, regardless of the effectiveness of the programs or the consequences of them. (We are seeing the effect of government mandates and their consequences on individuals and businesses as you read this.)
2. This mandated government spending would be set forth in the State's Constitution, rather than through statute, making it much more difficult to ever change. It would be 25 years before North Dakotans would have any real means to do so.
3. Over 25 years, billions of tax dollars could be used to buy land and compete with anyone looking to purchase land here in North Dakota. That might be farmers and ranchers seeking to expand their operations for returning family members, hunters seeking their own property to be enjoyed by family and friends or maybe a couple wishing to move from out of the city into the country to raise their family. Who would have the equity to compete with an almost bottomless checkbook of oil and gas tax dollars?
4. As usual with initiated measures, there will be hundreds of thousands if not millions of out-of-state dollars spent trying to influence North Dakota policy.
5. We are being asked to vote for the expenditure of billions of tax dollars without knowing what the money will be spent on. (We have seen the consequences of passing something to find out what is in it.)
Before signing the petition being circulated, why not give the Outdoor Heritage Fund created through our legislature with cooperative, bipartisan support, the chance to succeed and develop good effective conservation and outdoor programs? Please consider the consequences of signing on to a proposed 25-year government mandate to spend billions of dollars that is supported and funded by out-of-state interests?