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Plain Talk: For the first time in decades, a new appropriations chairman in North Dakota's Senate

On this episode of Plain Talk, Sen. Brad Bekkedahl, a Republican from Williston, spoke with co-host Ben Hanson and me about taking over that job.

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Plain Talk with Rob Port
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MINOT, N.D. — For the first time in decades, the North Dakota Senate has a new chairman of its appropriations committee.

Why does that matter? The chairs of the appropriations committees in the House and the Senate are in charge of reconciling all the spending the Legislature is trying to do in the next two-year budget cycle with the amount of revenue the state expects to collect. The two people who hold those positions are probably the most powerful politicians in North Dakota that you've never heard of.

In the Senate, third-term Sen. Brad Bekkedahl, a Republican from the Williston area, is taking over the job from Sen. Ray Holmberg, one of the longest-serving public servants in national history, who opted not to run for re-election this cycle.

On this episode of Plain Talk, Bekkedahl spoke with co-host Ben Hanson and me about taking over that job.

One of the most pressing issues before this session is a choice lawmakers will have between yet another property tax reduction plan, and a big income tax cut — an elimination of the tax for most North Dakotans — that has been touted by Gov. Doug Burgum.

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Burgum "makes a very compelling case" that his tax plan is "a better way to get relief into the hands of the taxpayers," Bekkedahl said, though he added that most taxpayers probably feel more burdened by their property tax bills than the income tax.

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What his committee makes of those proposals will be up to the committee.

Bekkedahl is also taking over this job after voters approved eight-year term limits for state lawmakers. "We'll live through this," Bekkedahl said, though he added that he doesn't "think it's going to be good for the state." He praised Holmberg and other long-time lawmakers for the institutional knowledge they brought to the Legislature, and he also pointed out that the voters were already doing a pretty good job of sending new people to the legislative chambers every election cycle.

What does Bekkedahl make of North Dakota getting a new lieutenant governor just as a new legislative session is going to begin? "I was surprised by the timing of the announcement," he said, noting that outgoing Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford worked well with the Legislature, but he was very positive about incoming Lt. Gov. Tammy Miller too, noting that she's "proved herself well" both as a member of Burgum's cabinet and a businesswoman.

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Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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