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Delving into the North Dakota Senate Race


Dan Barrett
November 2, 2012

The Senate race in North Dakota has received national attention for the close polling numbers but it suffers from a lack of analysis of the agendas. With time short before Tuesday, here is a quick break down of how Rick Berg and Heidi Heitkamp would change the federal budget (though this is more of a back-of-the-envelope summary). Similar to NTUF’s studies of Senate races in Massachusetts, Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin, I looked at campaign websites, interviews, and debates for mentions of budget-influencing policies that the candidates would support if elected.

Congressman Rick Berg

I could find 10 policies that Berg supports that could change spending.

Energy: Unknown.

  • Institute a National Energy Policy. Berg would support policies including clean coal, natural gas, nuclear, solar, wind, and “other sources” but does not offer details on whether such support would be in the form of tax credits or subsidies.

Government Reform: Unknown.

  • Pass the REINS Act. H.R. 10 (112th Congress), the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act of 2011, would require review of regulations in place and planned for implementation. However, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) could not determine the spending impacts.
  • Reform regulations for agriculture and health care. By cutting multiple types of regulations, agency administrative costs may decrease but Berg was unclear in how or what specifically he would do.
  • Support Tax Reform. Berg said he wants a simpler, smarter code that leads to economic growth but gave no details as to what he would specifically seek. If he were to eliminate refundable credits associated with the income tax, it would result in $82.646 billion in annual outlays.

Health Care: -66.255 billion (savings)

  • Allow the Purchase of Insurance Across State Lines. A bill introduced in the 109th Congress (H.R. 2355) was scored by CBO as a $326 million cost over five years.
  • Fight Medicare Fraud, Waste, and Abuse. It is difficult to determine the savings that might result from a more efficient system with the up-front cost of more enforcement and possible automation and how long it might take for those savings to appear.
  • Reform Medical Malpractice. The Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-cost, Timely Healthcare Act of 2011 (H.R. 5 in the 112th Congress) would save taxpayers $12.1 billion over five years, according to CBO.
  • Repeal the Affordable Care Act. NTUF recently scored repealing the health care overhaul as a $319.5 billion five-year savings.

Law Enforcement: $216 million

  • Employment Verification. The E-Verify system is already in place but not permanent or mandatory. To do both, CBO estimated the measure would cost $1.082 billion over five years.
  • Secure the Border. Short answer: Unknown cost. Long answer: Border Security Costs Uncertain

Net Agenda: -$66.039 billion (savings)

Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp

I could find 12 items that Heitkamp seeks that could affect the budget.

Economy & Agriculture: Unknown

  • Change the Farm Insurance System. Proposing to bring more choice to farmers, Heitkamp seeks to allow an opt-in coverage plan at the farm-level instead of requiring a county-by-county revenue plan. Elements of this proposal are being debated in the Senate but there are no estimates on this measure at the moment.
  • Improve Housing for Native Americans. S. 1327 (111th Congress), the Public and Indian Housing Crime and Drug Elimination Program Reauthorization Act of 2009, would cost $1.35 billion over five years. Heitkamp has not specifically endorsed this legislation and S. 1327 has not been reintroduced in the 112th Congress.
  • Reform the Banking Sector. Citing programs within the Bank of North Dakota, Heitkamp would work to replicate efforts to support small businesses, local community banks, and credit unions. However, there does not seem to be any introduced legislation at the federal level and no analyses of such programs currently available.

Education: Unknown.

  • Improve Education for Native Americans. Though Heitkamp does not indicate support for the bill (so it does not count), S. 1262 (112th Congress), the Native Culture, Language, and Access for Success in Schools Act, would improve education infrastructure and academic achievement. A cost estimate is not available.

Energy: Unknown.

  • Institute a National Energy Policy. Heitkamp would support policies including coal, oil, wind, biomass, geothermal, and hydro but does not offer details on whether such support would be in the form of tax credits or subsidies.

Government Reform: -$600 million

  • Reduce the Federal Vehicle Fleet. A bill was introduced (H.R. 408 (112th Congress), the Spending Reduction Act of 2011) included a provision to cut the fleet by 20 percent. The Progressive Policy Institute estimated the reduction, which was then summarized by the Republican Study Committee, as a $600 million first-year savings).
  • Reform regulations for agriculture, gasoline production, and small businesses. By cutting multiple types of regulations, agency administrative costs may decrease but Heitkamp was unclear in how or what specifically she would do.

Health Care: Unknown.

  • Allow for Prescription Drug Price Negotiation. While a bill has been introduced in the 112th Congress (H.R. 2296, the America RX Act of 2011) that would provide patients with prescription drugs at discounted prices, CBO reported that such a measure could generate little savings or increase costs.
  • Fight Medicare Fraud, Waste, and Abuse. Similar to drug price negotiation, it is difficult to determine the savings that might result from a more efficient system with the up-front cost of more enforcement and possible automation and how long it might take for those savings to appear.

Law Enforcement: $732 million

  • Pass the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). CBO scored the bill as a $607 million new cost over five years.
  • Strengthen sex offender tracking. There are some bills introduced in the 112th Congress (S. 329, S. 4029) that would institute greater limits on what sex offenders can do and how families can be further protected against them. However, Heitkamp was unclear in what she would support.
  • Support grants to Firefighters and Police Officers. A measure to reauthorize and expand Assistance to Firefighter Grants (AFG) -- S. 550 (112th Congress), the Fire Grants Reauthorization Act of 2011 -- was scored by CBO as a $1.163 billion five-year cost ($405 million was spent last year on AFGs). S. 207 (112th Congress), the COPS Improvements Act of 2011, would reauthorize and expand Community Oriented Policing Services grants. NTUF compared the appropriations levels in the bill with current spending ($522 million in FY 2011) and found the bill would increase spending by $378 million in the first year.

Veterans: Unknown.

  • Establish a Heroes Health Card. The card would allow vets to receive health care benefits at non-Veterans Affairs medical facilities. A similar measure was introduced in the 112th Congress -- S. 1146, the Alaska Hero’s Card Act -- but a cost estimate is not available.

Net Agenda: $132 million

Hope this helps the election discussion and the taxpayers out in North Dakota.


 

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