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Burgum says he'd give back state salary if elected ND governor

BISMARCK - Fargo businessman Doug Burgum will forgo his state salary if elected governor of North Dakota, the Republican said in his latest campaign ad released Tuesday, just a few days before the state GOP endorsing convention in Fargo.

Doug Burgum at Lorentzen luncheon
Doug Burgum in Fargo in January 2014. Darren Gibbins / The Forum

BISMARCK – Fargo businessman Doug Burgum will forgo his state salary if elected governor of North Dakota, the Republican said in his latest campaign ad released Tuesday, just a few days before the state GOP endorsing convention in Fargo.

The governor's annual salary is set in state law when the Legislature meets every two years. It's currently $129,091 and will increase to $132,964 on July 1.

It was unclear exactly how Burgum would "give my salary back to the taxpayers," as he said in the 30-second video spot. His communications manager, Kate Mund, said Burgum "will write a check back to the state general fund if he has to, but the taxpayers deserve that money back."

Ken Purdy, director of the state's Human Resource Management Services, said someone may be able to not accept the salary, "but we're not 100 percent sure of the mechanism or procedure."

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, who will compete with Burgum and state Rep. Rick Becker of Bismarck for the GOP endorsement Saturday, currently earns an annual salary of $152,436, which will increase to $157,009 on July 1-about $24,000 more than he'll make if elected governor.

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"I am sure voters are more concerned with electing a capable, experienced governor who can effectively lead this state than one who will work for free," Stenehjem's campaign manager, Nate Martindale, said via email.

Becker, a plastic surgeon, said he "couldn't even think about" giving up his salary if elected governor because he needs income to service the debt from his downtown commercial development projects.

"I think it's nice if he has the ability to do that," he said of Burgum. "If he has an adequate income that's passive, then that's a nice gesture."

Burgum, who built Great Plains Software and led the company through its $1.1 billion sale to Microsoft in 2001, has declined to disclose his net worth. When asked by Forum News Service earlier this month if he's a billionaire, he said, "not even close." As of last week, he had spent nearly $500,000 on broadcast ads.

In a separate statement to the media Tuesday, Burgum explained his decision not to accept a salary or pension if elected.

"I'm not interested in a political career. I'm running for governor because I love North Dakota," said Burgum, now chairman of the property development firm Kilbourne Group and a partner in Arthur Ventures, a venture capital firm.

"Given our runaway state spending and drastic drop in revenue, there will be many tough decisions to make on spending. I am starting the cutting process with my own salary," he said.

In the ad, Burgum also calls for term limits "to break up the good ol' boy network, because politicians are too cozy with lobbyists and special interests."

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North Dakota has no term limits for elected state officeholders. Martindale noted that state voters have rejected the notion of term limits three times.

"North Dakota has term limits. They are called elections," he said. Stenehjem served as a state legislator for 24 years before first being elected attorney general in 2000.

Burgum plans to run in the June 14 primary even if he loses the GOP nod Saturday.

Related Topics: DOUG BURGUMNORTH DAKOTA
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