North Dakota Progressive Coalition Publications


In Search of the Great Pumpkin
Economic Development Accountability in North Dakota

Economic development subsidies can be as prolific as pumpkins. As anyone who’s ever planted a pumpkin vine knows, once you get one growing, it’s hard to stop. But when taxpayers look at the wide variety of economic development programs in North Dakota, how do they know which ones are really working? Citizens don’t have to just believe, like Linus in the pumpkin patch, that results will be forthcoming if only they are patient enough. There are proven ways to ensure that economic development programs are effective and accountable.

This topic is personally important to North Dakotans. They are concerned about low wages and underemployment that force some wage earners to take multiple jobs to support their families. They worry about how to stop the outmigration of the state’s young people. Communities such as Minot have engaged in lively debate about whether the current approach to economic development is working. Advocates of the current programs argue that at least they are doing something (versus doing nothing), and that failures are a natural consequence of taking risks. But others look for best practices in other states, saying that it’s not enough to do something, but urgent to do the right things. They are looking for ways to ensure measurable success, not just add up dollars invested.

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The Little House (and Senate) on the Prairie
North Dakota's 2001 Legislative Debacle

2001 was a landmark year for the North Dakota Legislature. Despite Republican control over both houses of the legislature and the Governor’s Office, the session was one of the two longest on record. The length of the session did not, however, result in much real progress on any front.

There are those who would compare the 2001 Legislative Session to the goodness and tranquility of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie, but the truth is another matter. Despite the appearance of civility early in the session, the 2001 Legislature was anything but subdued. They debated a number of crucial and controversial issues. In most cases the outcome was appalling.

This report focuses on the outcome of a number of crucial legislative initiatives in the 2001 session, their relationship to the influence of powerful special interests and the wanton disregard for the principles of democracy by the legislature itself.

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