Reduce Property Taxes
The quickest way to get money into the pockets of North Dakotans, especially farmers, is through a reduction in property taxes.
North Dakota Republican legislators have been asleep at the wheel because the road was riding smooth. But, their short-sighted, good times budget is now facing some really bad times. So where do you think Republicans will make up their budget short falls? There are only two options. They will make drastic cuts to needed areas such as Higher Education, Human Services and Transportation or they will take it out of our pockets in taxes. There are 4 main sources of tax income in North Dakota: Sales Tax, Income Tax, Oil Extraction Tax, and Property Tax.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and my opponents unsustainable, irresponsible, record high $14.69 billion budget, somewhere taxes are going to have to go up: that is the inconvenient truth. Yet, Republican Legislators will soon be claiming no responsibility for their shortsightedness in years prior when they cut their cronies corporate income taxes and the Oil Extraction Tax.
Income and sales tax revenue will be going down because of the pandemic, and we know my opponents won’t vote against the oil companies. Therefore, it is highly likely they will make draconian cuts to critical areas and pay for the rest with property taxes.
And that’s exactly what we can’t have in a state where agriculture is the economic backbone, employing 24% of North Dakotans, and bringing in $10.9 billion a year. An increase in property taxes will disproportionately ravage farm country.
Farmers and the communities that rely on them are already in a precarious position, having withstood the worst harvest since the 80’s and trade wars. Now, they are being hit squarely, like all of us, by this pandemic. A property tax hike at this point would be a death blow; one that would ripple out onto every North Dakotan.
North Dakotans need help right now, and the quickest way to do that is through a cut to property taxes paid for by an increase in the Oil Extraction Tax.
Increasing the Oil Extraction Tax is something both of my opponents voted against in 2019 when there was an attempt to restore the tax to its pre-2015 level. Eliminating this tax cut would put our state’s budget on much steadier footing and allow us to take a serious look at much needed property tax reform.
Stabilize North Dakota's Budget
The state is in a very tough fiscal spot right now and COVID-19 has exacerbated the difficulty of these times.
Farmers just had the worst harvest since the 80’s, unemployment is spiking, and oil prices are plummeting. In the last decade, Republicans reconfigured our budget to rely on heavily on oil production. When oil was at $100 a barrel, North Dakota could fill our coffers, balance our budget and expand our Legacy fund now worth billions of dollars. The price of oil has to be $48 a barrel or our state’s revenue won’t be enough to meet the budget. Right now, oil is far below that at less than $20 a barrel, putting North Dakota’s budget in a fairly tricky position.
We have a State Mill, let's use it, we have the Bank of North Dakota, let's use it, we have a rainy day fund, we’re gonna have to use that, and we have an even bigger rainy day fund called the Legacy Fund built from oil money. Ideally, the state would be able to leave the Legacy Fund to grow two more decades until it’s large enough to fully provide for a post oil North Dakota.
That being said, if this isn't a rainy day, I don't know what is. It's not just raining, it's a downpour out here, right now. We have to be willing to accept that we might have to dip into the Legacy Fund in order to stabilize the state’s fiscal picture if utilizing the resources of the State Mill, State Bank and the rainy day fund aren't enough.
Mental Health is a priority to me (read the Meet Will page for more info). As your Representative, I will fight to ensure that North Dakotans have the mental health resources they need.
As a state, we have taken positive steps forward in the last decade by increasing spending on mental health and substance abuse resources, but there is still work to be done. Going backwards cannot be accepted.
Just 3.9% of the state budget is spent on Direct Client Services, and not all of that is spent on mental health and substance abuse. This spring, mental health facility Prairie St. John’s, had to shut down some services. If the largest mental health provider in the area is unable to sustain programs with the current budget, what does that say for smaller facilities’ ability to maintain programming if the state's Human Services Budget gets cut to make up for revenue shortfalls?
As District 22 legislator, I will fight to maintain Human Services spending levels from state budget cuts.
My opponents voted for Senate Bill 2345 that took away local control and the rights of townships/cities to determine whether they have hog farms or other factory farms placed in or near their township/city. Because of this anti-local control law, the Agriculture Commissioner gets the final say as to what goes where.
Do you want a Hog farm a few miles from your house, causing a terrible smell and bringing down your property value? Well, it doesn't matter what you, your neighbors, or your township want, because my opponents took away your right to decide locally.
Taking away the rights of townships/cities to self-determine what is best for them is a theme of my opponents. They also voted against the following: allowing townships/cities to impose Rent Control or Rent Increase Control measures, allowing townships/cities to set their own minimum wages higher than the state minimum wage, they even voted against allowing townships/cities to choose whether they want to ban plastic bags.
Clearly, my opponents don’t believe that local people can make the best choices for themselves. They are out of step with the district, believing only they can make decisions. I will fight for the rights of townships and protect my constituents from representatives who want to take the power out of the people’s hands.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown just how quickly everything can be turned upside down for working class North Dakotans. Now, as business begins to open up again, workers need to be protected against being forced to go back to work in potentially dangerous environments. Proper testing measures, protective gear, and safety procedures need to be implemented to do this.
Furthermore, it’s time that North Dakota has universal paid sick leave. If you are sick, you shouldn’t have to choose between staying home to get healthy and potentially missing a paycheck that is vitally important to making ends meet.
Yet, instead of working to protect the interests and rights of the workers, I can guarantee that Republican legislators will focus on protecting the interests of business. They will reduce the liability that businesses face if they force people who get sick to return to work. Thus, businesses can’t be held responsible, even if they actively choose not to protect their workers. That is not right. Fighting for workers’ rights is what is right.
Another way to save North Dakotans money is by lowering the cost of health care. One practical way to do this for many North Dakotans is by expanding who can be covered by medicaid.
Everyone should have access to high quality, affordable health care, no matter their situation. While expanding medicaid will not universally make healthcare affordable and accessible, it is a great first step with higher aspirations in mind.
Furthermore, we need to protect what we have already been given. There is no room for backtracking. We can not allow insurance companies to deny coverage to those with pre- existing conditions. Dependents need to continue to be allowed to stay on their parents plans through age 26. This gives options and protections to young people just entering the workforce.
Education is an investment, and it’s a smart one.
We know that NDSU is the heart and soul of this state and that along with the entire North Dakota University System, Higher Ed provides for the state’s education and employment needs. Therefore, funding for Higher Education must continue.
Students that go to NDSU and receive financial assistance from the state are more likely to stay here, more likely to raise families here, and more likely to give back to the state that invested in them.
In addition to continued support for all public education, the North Dakota Legislature needs to ensure that schools are prepared for situations like the pandemic. The state needs to consider whether our schools are adequately prepared for future problems that may arise.
Election Reform and Voting Rights
Currently, there is a proposed ballot initiative on the 2020 ballot that would do four main things: A) Require an upgrade in election equipment in each district/county/polling place that would require paper ballot copies. B) Establish a mechanism for random audits of election results to insure they are being done fairly. C) Grant the Ethics Committee the responsibility of redrawing districts after each census in order to curtail gerrymandering. D) Create open, Instant Runoff Voting Elections for statewide offices and district house and senate races. This would eliminate the need for political party endorsements to get on the primary ballot and is supported by Conservatives, Moderates and Progressives throughout the state. I support this ballot initiative and if it does not get on the ballot for November, I will take on its mantle in the Legislature.
Furthermore, I'm in support of mail-in ballot voting. Many states have shown how a mail-in vote can increase turnout and engagement and create a more representative democracy. No states have reported problems since adopting the system. The Covid-19 Pandemic has shown that voting in person might become hazardous or difficult. Mail-in voting is a safe and easy way to get out the vote.
As far as the Right to Vote, no person should be disenfranchised. Every American, regardless of situation or circumstance, upon turning 18 should be granted the right to vote, and that should never be reduced, challenge or taken away.
North Dakota is an energy power house. It is one of the best states in the country for wind and solar. Yet, currently, this state is largely not capable of handling requirements of renewable energy. Because initial infrastructure investments to run renewable energy options are the biggest costs of installing renewable energy, we need to upgrade our energy infrastructure. We need to get started now if we are to transform our power grid in time to make an impact on the climate change crisis.
Furthermore, it’s time we open up tax credits to renewable energy manufacturing. We offer tax credits in this state for all kinds of manufacturing, we should also offer them to make the power grid more sustainable.
Protecting North Dakota from Corporate Farming
ND is one of the only states that doesn't allow for Corporate farming, and if you talk to farmers anywhere else in the country, that is what they are most envious about. My dad would tell me stories of when he went on the harvest run to Kansas every year as a teen and young adult. Everyone along the way would say "never give up your ban on corporate farming."
A vigilant eye is needed to make sure no measure that allows for corporate farming is slipped into another bill. That is what was done with Senate bill 2345 that allows the Agriculture Commissioner to place hog farms wherever they please.
Infrastructure is critical to North Dakota’s residents and economy. Roads, dams and bridges cannot be allowed to become dilapidated or structurally deficient.
North Dakota’s Republican Legislature has failed to protect North Dakotans who rely on our infrastructure to move our economy forward. We cannot wait for the federal government to come and save the day. The state must provide adequate funding for roads, bridges, dams and water treatment plants or North Dakotans will suffer the consequences of not having these key infrastructures in place.
I support key updates to North Dakota infrastructure.
Child Care Assistance
The cost of child care is one of the biggest hurdles facing young families in North Dakota. Legislators need to do more to help. As your Representative, I will support state funded, universal Pre K.
To cover the cost of after birth support, I am in favor of mandating that companies provide 6 months off of maternity and paternity leave, so that the 1st year of life can be provided for in terms of child care. This would also extend to if a single parent or couple adopt a child. Currently there is no sort of leave associated with adopting a child.
Drug Enforcement Policies
The Reagan Era War on Drugs was a resounding failure. The supply side reduction approach did far more bad than it did good.
I’ve seen first hand how the current system fails people instead of helping people. The system is geared toward criminal conviction, thus, making it more difficult to find jobs and housing. When the system only punishes you and doesn't help in a meaningful way, it leaves people branded with a permanent scar that often leads to reoffending.
Data from other countries have shown that demand reduction and reduced drug enforcement policies work to reduce crime and rehabilitate much more effectively.
Certainly, implementing such a radical change in policy won’t be easy. It would require changes in law, a lot of communication, and planning across departments, but the basic approach would include decriminalization and rehabilitation. Instead of expensive incarceration, we would focus on rehabilitation that would include helping addicts find jobs and affordable housing so they can focus on getting clean.
Sexual orientation or Gender Identity
Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity is unacceptable. North Dakota law should reflect that employers, educators, people in general, cannot be allowed to discriminate on the basis of Sexual orientation or Gender Identity. Enough said.