Tracker Pixel for Entry

It’s time to get Breathe ND out of our state budget

by Rob Port | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Say Anything | December 10th, 2015

North Dakota may find itself short on revenues in coming bienniums, but the state could ease that pain by getting out of the anti-tobacco advocacy business.

First, let’s make the budget picture clear.

“I think there's a realization setting in that the revenues are going to be short of what we expected,” state Senator Gary Lee told me last week during an interview about the state’s finances (we didn’t get into tobacco policy). Lee is a Republican from Casselton who chairs the Legislature’s interim Budget Section committee. He told me the state will likely dip into reserve funds to make ends meet this biennium.

That’s not an unusual point of view among lawmakers these days as our state’s commodity-based economy takes a hit from low commodity prices.

But while the state has prodigious financial reserves, breaking open the piggy bank to access them is not pain free. The more than $575 million in the Budget Stabilization Fund, for instance, would only bridge a revenue gap for any given area of spending that is up to 2.5 percent less than what lawmakers appropriated.

Which means, in plainer language, that agencies hoping to get relief from the fund would have still have to reduce spending by 2.5 percent.

Maybe not such a bad thing, really. Over the last five budgeting cycles general fund spending in the state has grown more than 188 percent. The aggressive spending growth even predated the tax revenue windfall which accompanied the Bakken oil boom.

I suspect our state agencies can probably find 2.5 percent worth of fat to cut.

Fiscal reserves are only a short term solution, though. "I think we're going to be in good shape this biennium,” Lee said. “Next biennium, if it stays like this, it could paint a little bit different picture."

Which means that the budget pain could go alot further than 2.5 percent reductions if revenues don’t rebound.

So here’s a modest proposal for making the belt tightening a little easier: Let’s get rid of our ridiculous and redundant anti-tobacco advocacy agency.

The Center for Tobacco Prevention and Control Policy - you know them as BreatheND from their preachy, condescending advertising campaigns - was created by North Dakota voters on the 2008 ballot.

Voters were told that they’d be casting their ballots for using the state’s share of national tobacco settlement dollars for tobacco cessation programs. Would they didn’t realize is that they’d be creating an anti-tobacco political advocacy group in the state government. A cushy employment opportunity for blinkered political activists - including one state lawmaker, Democrat Senator Erin Oban of Bismarck - which is slowly creeping its mission into fighting vaping.

Something that has nothing to do with tobacco and, ironically, seems to be contributing to reduced tobacco use.

In North Dakota seven years must pass before lawmakers may modify legislation passed by voters at the ballot box. The 2017 legislative session will be the first opportunity lawmakers have to reform, and perhaps even eliminate, BeatheND.

What’s more, 2017 is the last year of the tobacco settlement payments, and BreatheND has been stockpiling their funds. According to the Office of Management and Budget’s appropriations book for the 2015-2017 biennium, BreatheND is projected to have a more than $56 million ending balance.

This is low hanging fruit for lawmakers hoping to ease the transition from boom-era revenues to the post-boom “new normal.”

We don’t need BreatheND to tell us that tobacco is bad for us - that knowledge has saturated the public consciousness - nor do we need a redundant health agency. And we already have a Department of Health.

Lawmakers should close down BreatheND and use its funds to shore up more needful areas of the budget. If there are programs or initiatives BreatheND is responsible for which are necessary to carry on - doubtful, but we can debate it - that policy can be transferred to the Department of Health.

Creating BreatheND was a mistake. Political advocacy doesn’t belong in state government. In 2017 we have the opportunity to both unmake that mistake and ease some budget pain. And if the BreatheND activists don’t like it, they’re free to create a private group and continue their advocacy.

RECENTLY IN

Say Anything

Tracker Pixel for Entry RRVFair2018 Tracker Pixel for Entry LoganOnlineAds Tracker Pixel for Entry RareBeerPicnic Tracker Pixel for Entry Pekin2018

Recently in:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Policy, not law, has torn more than 2,300 children from their parents along the U.S.-Mexico border. Although immigration reform has been a heated topic for decades, the policy of zero tolerance began with a…

Stand-up comedy can certainly be a cutthroat business. Despite the fact that everyone loves to laugh, humor is highly subjective. What splits one person’s sides may offend the other. More than one comic has watched a show (or…

Thursday, June 21, 8 p.m.-11 p.m.Hotel Donaldson, 101 N BroadwayJake Ingamar may be best known as a solo acoustic, indie singer-songwriter/pedal steel player. For the very first time, he’s plugging in and is going full blown…

Just last week Raul and I were driving a rental car on the backroads of Mallorca, a small Mediterranean Island off the coast of Spain. Not gonna lie, my nose may or may not have been pressed hard against the window admiring the…

Ireland Has Sent Pope Francis and The Vatican A Dear John Letter: “It’s Over!”The Irish people and the Vatican have been developing a huge cultural grand canyon for decades over the issues of gender identities,…

FARGO - A collection of memories from High Plains Reader's annual Cocktail Showdown. Participants were judged on creativity, flavor, and presentation; and this year we added a new category. Like years before, each establishment was…

Every year the Fargo Moorhead area celebrates its love of food with Restaurant week. Each restaurant involved prepares a special menu to showcase the best of what they have to offer. This year there are seventeen restaurants…

Front Street Taproom has struck up a relation with local record shop, Vinyl Giant. There are two events where turntables are set up and people can play their records. Every Wednesday they host Vinyl Night from 7:00 to 11:00 p.m.…

Scaring up early buzz as a premiere in the Midnight section of the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, Ari Aster’s “Hereditary” is the horror film of the year. Anchored by the vital performance of Toni Collette as grieving,…

By Tayler Klimektklimek@cord.eduCome one, come all to the 59th anniversary of the Midwestern Invitational Art Exhibition! This tradition celebrates each year with a preview and awards selection the first night of its showing, with…

Projects have a tendency to take on a life of their own once they’ve reached a certain point. When the Fargo-Moorhead Community Theatre was established in 1946 to offer other local opportunities for artistic expression outside…

Fargo has its share of people who are passionate about stand-up comedy, even if the success of clubs devoted to it has been mixed. Despite the fact we have seen places like Courtney’s Comedy Club and Level 2 Comedy Club close…

By Ben Myhrebenmyhre35@gmail.comHow lucky we are in the FM area that we have so many craft breweries, but did you know that we also have two cider houses? Cottonwood Cider House is one of those cider houses and is just a short…

Best Local CelebrityCarson WentzBest Stylist / BarberJed Felix, Everett’s BarbershopBest Salon / Barber ShopEverett’s BarbershopBest Tattoo Parlor46 & 2 TattooBest Tattoo ArtistMeg Felix, No Coast TattooBest Gift ShopZandbroz…

By Melissa Martinmelissamartincounselor@live.comThink back to one of your worst small decisions. Then answer the following questions:How did you make the decision?What happened after the decision?When did you know it was the worst…

Last Word

​Keeping FM C.L.E.A.N

by HPR Contributor

By Paul JensenFargo, as the most populous city in the state with 120,000 inhabitants, added nearly 6,000 20-to-34-year-olds in 2015, just over five percent of the total population. Fargo is attracting well-educated young…