RODRIK BROSTEN • http://m.missoulian.com • September 6, 2012
Around 1915, the Nonpartisan League in North Dakota was established. Its platform called for a state-owned bank and state ownership of a grain elevator terminal and flour mill. Within a few years, it controlled the legislature and all state offices and its plan was put in place. But within two years, the party imploded, and in 1921, North Dakota held a special election and state wide officials were recalled, including the Republican governor, a first for the United States. But, on the same ballot, a proposition to shut down the bank failed and it went ahead. Today, the bank is profitable and respected, providing economic leadership to the state and value to the people; the mill and its flour is a source of pride state wide.
Why does North Dakota have the lowest unemployment rate (3.2 percent) and the fastest job growth rate in the country? Oil is certainly a factor. Alaska has roughly the same population and produces twice as much oil, yet unemployment is running at 7.3 percent. Montana, South Dakota and Wyoming have benefited from the boom in energy prices, with Montana and Wyoming extracting much more gas than North Dakota has. The Bakken oil field stretches across Montana as well as North Dakota, with the greatest Bakken oil production coming from Elm Coulee oil field in Montana. Yet Montana’s unemployment is 6.3 percent.
North Dakota is the only state to be in continuous budget surplus since the banking crisis of 2008. In fact, it recently reduced individual income taxes and property taxes by a combined $400 million. It also has the lowest foreclosure rate and the lowest credit card default rate in the country and it has had no bank failure in at least the last decade.
The secret is its own state-owned bank….
…So why does Montana not have a state-owned bank? A bill to study the concept was presented to the 2011 Legislature and as a candidate for the Montana House of Representatives, I look forward to working with others to see that another bill will appear in 2013 to go on to the next step.
Rodrik Brosten of Bigfork is a candidate for Montana House District 9.
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