AS I SEE IT
By Neal A. Shipman
Newly-elected North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and U.S. President Donald Trump both bring strong business backgrounds to their respective offices. And they are going to need those talents to help meet the fiscal troubles facing the state and the nation.
Like Trump, Burgum has promised to cut government payroll and examine all agencies to cut costs and to improve efficiencies. But promising to make government more financially responsible to the taxpayers, while still ensuring much needed services continue to be provided is quite another story.
Reining in government spending is much easier said than done for a couple of reasons.
First, let’s face it. People like to receive their services from the government, especially when they don’t have to pay for those services directly, although virtually everyone will say that they pay too much in taxes.
Second, government likes to grow. The bigger a state or federal agency becomes, the perception becomes that those services are indispensable. And with very few checks and balances between the agencies who develop their own budgets and either the state legislature or the U.S. Congress, who ultimately approve those expenditures, the cost of government spirals out of control.
Enter two businessmen who totally understand what it takes to control costs. Whereas government can, and does grow, in either a growing or a shrinking economy, both Trump and Burgum understand the dynamics of controlling costs while still providing efficient and necessary services.
Business owners across North Dakota and the United States understand that principle as well. Unless businesses can control their expenses, they go out of business. The workers that they employ lose their jobs, and the services and the products that they produce and deliver to their customers cease.
Granted, government is not a business. And unlike businesses, government does not normally generate revenue from other sources than the taxpayers. But that doesn’t mean that government shouldn’t be managed in a more business-like manner.
Can Trump and Burgum deliver on their promises to rein in government spending and reduce waste? A lot will depend upon how members of the U.S. Congress and the North Dakota Legislature embrace that concept.
The good news for both Trump and Burgum is that they are both Republicans and their political party controls both legislative branches in Washington, D.C. and Bismarck.
If ever there was a time when budgetary changes could, and should, be made to the federal and state budgets, this is the time.