Governor Burgum: The Potential Protest Disaster and Trying to Forgo His Salary

Part 2 of 2: Our Interview With North Dakota's Republican Governor

FARGO, N.D. — We sat down with Governor Doug Burgum last Friday to talk about the issues of the day including DAPL, the budget and his efforts to forgo his salary.

TJ Nelson: I did see something on social media where some papers were given to people out there to tell them the order has been issued?

Governor Doug Burgum: Yeah, the cell service is bad. You know, some people may be on social media where they’re checking in but if they are only reading sources that say ‘stay, come back, you know keep fighting the fight’, we’re all about free speech but this is not a place to be trying to conduct that. If you take a look at the whole Missouri River system from top to bottom, the biggest potential ecological pollution event that could happen this spring is right here from this camp and how ironic that this started about protecting the water. So part of what we’re saying to people is you’ve got until next week to move. Move your personal belongings and move out. If you’re here in the remaining days, if you could help us cleanup, that would be great. Take your personal stuff with you. There is tons and tons of stuff that’s been donated and try to get people a scale…this is not like a bunch of high school kids walking down a ditch and picking up some garbage. I mean, there have been 120 roll off dumpster loads already taken out of the camp and it’s barely put a dent in what needs to be done. We’re already with the warm temperatures that have started earlier this week. We’ve got significant portions of the two track areas, I hate to call them roads, but as the thaw goes out of the ground, the ruts are getting deeper. There’s already four inches or more of water on there. All that makes it more difficult. We’ve also got a couple hundred abandoned vehicles in there, campers and cars from all over the country. Anybody in North Dakota that’s ever left a car out all winter knows what happens. The battery freezes, leaks…the thing starts leaking out. When we get everyone out and all the visible garbage out, the Army Corps of Engineers wants to come in and do soil remediation. They may even come in and excavate entire dumps that have been created where both human waste and food waste and garbage have been deposited as part of this thing. So, it’s not just about picking up the litter. This is a trying to return the site to its pre-protest camp conditions which was a pristine part of North Dakota.

Alison Voorhees: You have been running into a little opposition when it comes to adding amenities to the new governor’s mansion and also trying to forgo your salary. Are you finding your first few months in political office a little restraining?

Governor Doug Burgum: I think those are two…I’d call lighter examples…because when you’re trying to take a billion and a half dollars out of a budget out of $6 billion general fund, take it down by a billion and a half…no legislature has ever had to be tasked with that. No governor had to be tasked with that before with that scale or that size so it’s a big job and it’s going to get done. I think that’s the big picture that we have to focus on. But, in the context of that, there is an opportunity and the legislature still has an opportunity before them. It’s two paragraphs for them to vote on something that says my salary is zero. That seems like a simple thing that hasn’t been passed yet. It’s been defeated procedurally a couple of ways but I’m hoping the legislature will still see their way because I think the people of North Dakota know that when I ran I said I was going to forego my salary. I sit through dozens and dozens and dozens of presentations by people in the state that all wished they had another $100,000 and another $100,000. Well I know where to get some. I said the first dollars I’d give up was my salary. I still intend to do that and if the legislature decides that they are going to vote against that, I would call your legislators and ask them why they think that’s a good idea to do that. So that would be that. As far as the residence itself, kudos to Jack and Betsy (Dalrymple) and everybody that worked before this to get this project done. It is going to be a great thing for the state of North Dakota for the next 50 or 100 years and I’m grateful for all the work they’ve done. Any part that I have in that is minuscule, but I just want to make sure we’re not just focused on initial cost. We’re also focused on operating cost because anybody in North Dakota that builds a shop today knows that if you put in floor heat in that shop, it’s going to pay for itself in about 18 months. So when we’re building any state building, we want to make sure…and actually, the state law requires us to be energy efficient…I think those are things that we want to make sure that even in these times of tight budgets we’re making sure the money we spend keeps the operating cost down for North Dakota taxpayers in the future. I just want to say I appreciate the opportunity to be on here and thanks for all you guys do to keep North Dakota pointed in the right direction.

The governor’s evacuation order says protesters must be out of the camps by this Wednesday.

We will continue to follow the events as they unfold.

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