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North Dakota Ready with Mickelson’s Bucket for Federal Infrastructure Spending

Discussing the potential impact of President Biden’s infrastructure plans on farm country, North Dakota’s transportation chief expresses the honest pragmatism that keeps the prairie alive by taking federal money:

“We’ll take as much money the federal government can send our way and I would say almost every state is in a similar condition,” said Bill Panos, the director of the North Dakota Department of Transportation, who also serves as the president of the Western Association of State Highway Transportation Officials.

Panos has a 10-year plan for North Dakota that is projected to cost $2 billion just to maintain existing infrastructure — about the amount in federal funding the state expects to receive for road and highway investments if the bill passes. North Dakota’s senators Kevin Cramer and John Hoeven, both Republicans, voted for the bill [Katie Lobosco, “Trump Went All-Out to Win Farmer Support. Now They’re All in on Biden’s Infrastructure Plan,” CNN, 2021.09.26].

Back in 1993, South Dakota Governor George S. Mickelson took a similarly pragmatic stance on a new Democratic President’s plan to invest in infrastructure. Governor Mickelson put aside partisanship and told us to get out our buckets (start at 36:50):

Water development is a public health issue. Water development is an economic development issue. We have talked about water development for 40 years. And for 40 years, this state has not developed any measure of the total development that was promised us when we made the political decisions along with other basin states in 1944 to dam up and provide ther esrvoirs that are here. And so now is the time to deal with water development.

Bill Clinton has mentioned twice at least that I’ve seen in his talk about infrastructure development jumpstarting this nation’s economy, twice he has talked about water development projects as being a key. It may be short-lived also, that is, this ability to jumpstart with infrastructure improvement. He—I’m going to support him in whatever efforts he wants to make—almost every effort that he might want to make—in balancing the federal deficit, but the fact is that our opportunity may be fairly short-lived. You’ve been reading lately about how he was more concerned about the budget, that it might—the deficit might be more than he actually thought it was. So if it’s gonna rain only once, and it’s gonna happen soon, we have to get our buckets ready [Governor George S. Mickelson, State of the State Address, Pierre, SD, 1993.01.12; transcribed from C-SPAN video, starting timestamp 36:50].

Politicians in North and South Dakota tend to talk a good game about opposing big government. But when we actually have to build vital infrastructure like roads and bridges and water pipes, we know we have too much ground and too little cash to build such projects without the help of big federal government.

4 Comments

  1. Loren 2021-09-27

    Meanwhile, in D.C., the SD delegation is spouting off about voting against any spending bill, shutting down the gov’t and crashing the economy. Why support funding for the future when you can make political hay (trouble for Democrats) today? Great job, guys!

  2. Porter Lansing 2021-09-27

    Republicans are subconsciously embarrassed about electing Trump and supporting giving middle-class billions to billionaires.

    They see a justification, if Biden fails and will stop anything he promotes; like they did with Obama after the embarrassment of George W. Bush.

  3. larry kurtz 2021-09-27

    In North Dakota’s Cass County the Latino concentration has doubled since the 2010 Census and in McKenzie County it is up over 1000 percent. Overall, in North Dakota the number of people who self-identify as Latino or Hispanic has gone over 33,000.

    What do these climate refugees and migrant workers have in common with their Midwest counterparts? Christianity. “Pro-life” is simply code for white people breeding. African-Americans terminate pregnancies at about the same per capita rate as white people do but don’t take their jobs. Latinas, however, have fewer abortions per capita but the extreme white wing knows it’s hemorrhaging jobs to Latinos.

    And as the Republican Party caves on immigration after Governor Kristi Noem said she won’t accept Afghan compatriots in South Dakota wage slaves could make real social justice change by walking off their jobs then calling for a general strike and bring Kristi to her senses, too.

  4. Donald Pay 2021-09-27

    That was back when South Dakota had a Governor. I had lots of issues with Gov. Mickelson, but he knew his stuff. I respected him.

    I listened to the whole speech, but you directed people right to the heart of the thing that Mickelson reformed over course of his governorship. From the beginning of his Governorship he reformed the whole water development and environmental infrastructure funding system. It went from a system where the special and political interests controlled the whole thing to a system that had specific priorities that all of South Dakota’s communities had, where projects were scored on a fair rubric and where funding was given out based on these schores. By the time Mickelson gave that speech he had laid the groundwork for all the water pipelines other than WEB. Other stuff in the speech was a little cockeyed, especially what ended up as his Families First agenda. But he ended up modifying his hard edge a bit. I was lobbying during that legislative session, which had the first Democratic Party majority in the state Senate in decades. It was the best two years in state government because people had to talk and compromise to get things done. And they did.

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