After a couple of years working at the Grand Forks Herald, I feel fairly confident in saying that I know the bulk of North Dakota’s state and regional leaders. And while I’ve interviewed Lt. Gov. Jack Dalrymple once or twice for stories in the past, I had never actually had the chance to sit down and talk with him in person.
I got that chance on Friday when Dalrymple came to Grand Forks for a meeting with the Herald’s editorial board, a meeting that stretched to nearly two hours and covered so many issues that I had to write two separate articles about what he said. It was the perfect time to get that chance with Dalrymple – in less than a month, he’ll become North Dakota’s 32nd governor as Gov. John Hoeven resigns to become the state’s newest U.S. senator. Dalrymple announced last week that he’ll appoint former U.S. Attorney Drew Wrigley as the lieutenant governor after Hoeven steps down.
For Saturday’s Herald, I wrote an article outlining Dalrymple’s priorities for office – which mostly consist of building up the state’s infrastructure and dealing with flooding concerns around Fargo and Devils Lake, while also working toward tax relief.
And in Sunday’s Herald, I had an article outlining Dalrymple’s thoughts on the current status of higher education in North Dakota and what needs to be done to make the case to state legislators to invest more in the higher education system.
But one thing I didn’t include in the articles was the part of the discussion that focused on the “great dilemma” that Congress now faces. It’s also an issue that will need to be dealt with byÂ North Dakota’s two newest members of Congress, Hoeven and Rick Berg (who defeated Rep. Earl Pomeroy in last week’s election).
The Herald’s Tom Dennis asked Dalrymple about how Hoeven and Berg can go to Washington and come to terms with being Republicans in newly conservative House and more conservative minded Senate but still work to win federal money for North Dakota – money that will be needed for things like dealing with Devils Lake and building a Red River diversion to protect Fargo and West Fargo. Here’s how Dalrymple responded:
Itâ€™s a great dilemma of the U.S. Congress. More and more people are talking about it being kind of a permanent, systemic flaw. And I donâ€™t know that I have the pat answer there. What they need to do in my mind is stop solving the problems by letting everyone in the assembly have what they want. Every bill is a Christmas tree that finally has enough stuff in it so they got the votes. That is doomed to failure. And earmarking has to exist; congressmen have to get their goodies to take home. But I would talk to Rick and John about some kind of a permanent system where thereâ€™s a certain amount of money appropriated that will go to earmarks, and itâ€™s evenly divided by congressional district. Maybe senators get like a double share. And maybe the leaders get like a triple share if you want actually acknowledged the seniority or the power thatâ€™s historically governed us. But devise a formula so that if you want to spend umpteen billion dollars on earmarks, OK, do that, but at least have it be something that people can look at transparently and say that was the earmark bill. And it cost this much money and at least it was allocated somewhat fairly. Then you could move onto other kinds of legislation and get people to make a pure policy decision on each one of those bills that comes along or amendment where there isnâ€™t some payoff attached to everything. Thatâ€™s the only thing I could think of, but boy in the short-term of course you know, his first day, he will stand up in his group and heâ€™ll say, â€˜Iâ€™m for holding down the cost of government and Iâ€™m also for getting like a bunch of stuff for my state.â€™ Just like they all do. Itâ€™s a really tough deal.
I have some hope though that John Hoeven is one of these kind of guys that approaches everything so rationally and so diligently that whatever he figures out should happen, there is a chance that some people may follow him there and sayâ€¦ And say. â€˜All I care about is getting re-elected. But this guy over here does seem to have his act together, he does seem to have actually worked on it. And I think Iâ€™ll go with him.â€™
That prompted Tom Dennis to ask Dalrymple if it will be a reform-minded Congress after a historic Election Day. Hereâ€™s how he responded:
Yeah, there has to be a systemic solution and not just a bunch of talk. I donâ€™t know where weâ€™re going. Iâ€™d like to think that all those Republicans got elected for the right reason. But Iâ€™ve been around long enough to know that maybe not. Weâ€™ll see. But in North Dakota, Iâ€™m going to encourage our legislators to live up to this honor thatâ€™s been bestowed on us. People are saying, â€˜Well done.â€™ And letâ€™s not blow it. Letâ€™s live up to the privilege of being the ones that are going to decide things, because it can disappear so fast.