Tuesday, March 02, 2010
BS Alert by Brett Narloch
Issue: Economic Development
Recently, the Bismarck Tribune editorialized that the government needs to treat taxpayers with respect (Treat taxpayers with respect - March 2, 2010). The op-ed states,
The city does have a role in economic development. But the city should not allow for the milking of city economic development incentives. Businesses that take unfair, although legal, advantage of these programs show a lack of respect for the local taxpayers who fund these programs.
The whole idea behind these incentives is to draw businesses to critical areas. The incentives, in a sense, level the playing field for these firms. But when firms double up, it creates an unfair advantage.
In North Dakota, much job creation is a public-private partnership. The result has been positive overall. But any time economic development relies on government for resources, there must be protections for taxpayers. It's the responsibility of local bodies like the Bismarck City Commission to make sure those protections are in place.
The Bismarck Tribune is not necessarily wrong by saying that private businesses shouldn't take advantage of certain programs, even if they are legal. They are right that it is disrespectful to taxpayers.
For the sake of this BS Alert, I won't comment on the fallacy that job creation is a "public-private partnership" and that the results have been positive. That's simply nonsense. However, the paper is right again when it says that protections need to be in place to help taxpayers.
But by getting into big debates about how to protect taxpayers, the Bismarck Tribune has completely ignored the fact that most, if not all, of the "economic development" programs are completely illegal.
Article X, Section 18 of the North Dakota Constitution is very clear about government-led economic development programs. It states,
The state, any county or city may make internal improvements and may engage in any industry, enterprise or business, not prohibited by article XX of the constitution, but neither the state nor any political subdivision thereof shall otherwise loan or give its credit or make donations to or in aid of any individual, association or corporation except for reasonable support of the poor, nor subscribe to or become the owner of capital stock in any association or corporation.
The importance of adhering to the Constitution should go without saying. If government is allowed to disregard one part of the Constitution, then what is stopping it from ignoring other parts? Do we want to know what government would look like if it could pick and choose which rules to follow?
Thankfully, a Minot man has sued the state for trampling the Constitution. It's hard to believe that these words need to be stated: ignoring the Constitution is BS.