In the debate of Measure 2, the proponents of the measure say the Legislature will be required to “fully and properly fund legally imposed obligations”. In the eyes of the supporters, it seems the state will be required to have an open checkbook to fulfill the wishes of local governments in North Dakota.
However, in the recent Legislative hearing on Measure 2, there was a comment made by Representative David Drovdal that gives insight into how Measure 2 will actually work. When discussion turned to funding local governments and new facilities, Drovdal said, “The Legislature will determine what proper funding is – including decisions on new buildings – not local governments.”
Now, let’s create an example of this statement. The Bismarck School Board is bringing a proposal to the local voters to spend $81 million on two elementary schools and a high school. If Measure 2 passes all school boards will be required to bring their facility requests to the legislature. Thus, this request would go into the House Appropriations process and start moving through a subcommittee, a committee, then a floor vote and then over to the Senate to repeat the process. If there is a disagreement, it goes to a (or multiple) conference committee(s) and then gets passed, most likely, in the last days of the legislature. Instead of the local voters making a decision in a local election, the legislature will debate how many schools are needed in our community. And, make a determination about how much funding to provide. Do Bismarck-Mandan or any parents across the state really want to cede this right and privilege to the legislature?
Imagine if five communities ask for new schools in the same year. Imagine 5-$81 million dollar requests for over $400m dollars. More than likely, the legislature designates a certain number of dollars for capitol construction and then it gets divided up. One only has to look to the current process with the Higher Education budget to understand how this formula works. Suddenly, the number of legislators from a community or region makes a difference on funding allocations and ”fairness” comes into play for what should be a local decision on building schools. That is not bad…it is just the reality when one moves from the local to the state level for a decision.
Measure 2 will force local voters to surrender control of spending decisions to the legislature. It turns our school board, city, county and park board members into lobbyists for funding. Is that really how we want our local elected officials to spend their time? I’d say No. Vote no on Measure 2.