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Legislative Report – Week 10

Week 10 Legislative Report, 64th session, Senator Phil Murphy

When I taught Psychology it was brought to my attention by a professor from Stanford University that the one condition humans hate the most is chaos. By definition, the uncertainty of being in chaos takes security and order out of our lives and we have no idea what to expect, so we are defensive, fearful and suspicious. That is a poor way to live our lives and one of the reasons that newcomers to our country, especially from refugee status or corrupt states, often identify the rule of law here as the best thing about the USA. (We take it for granted here in ND because it works so well we are shocked if it doesn’t). The chaos in our state right now is swirling around the price of a barrel of oil. Everyone is worried about the drop in oil revenue. No one knows what it is going to do, so we are cutting amounts in the Governor’s budget and are probably going to affix triggers to raise funding levels if and when the income from oil taxes rise. Next week we get a much ballyhooed economic forecast from a respected financial firm called Moody’s Analytics. I put little stock in it because, as previously stated, no one knows. It would not surprise me to see Moody predict less revenue than they did in December – it came out on the day of our Governor’s budget address – the optimism of which was quickly dashed.

Being the optimistic folks we are however, it seems to me most have been waiting for the new forecast hoping it will go up. Not likely in my view. On the other hand, I believe we are going to have income from oil well past my lifetime which will help our state budgets to a greater degree than ever before save the last four years of the boom. We got used to those riches in a hurry, did we not? We need to take the long view and this is one of the speed bumps. There will be others as transportation and environmental issues continue to plague this oil and gas play. Translation: We can adequately fund our higher education and P-12 institutions. We do not need to put cuts on the back of state workers. We can come much closer to our Governor’s budget than many currently seem to think, no matter the forecast. Again, this is my opinion. We cannot ignore the lesser revenues, but it is my hope that our legislators do not give in to the chaotic volatility of oil prices by showing panic.

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