BISMARCK, N.D. – Gov. Jack Dalrymple today said the 63rd Legislative Assembly is making good progress in addressing the state’s priorities. During the first half of the session, legislators acted quickly to provide immediate funding and avoid delays on statewide roadway improvements and rural water supply projects. Legislators are also advancing proposals to provide additional tax relief, enhance education and public safety and to fund other priorities.
“The Legislature is making good progress, but the challenge that lies ahead is in striking a sound balance between providing additional tax relief and meeting the many other needs of our growing state,” Dalrymple said. “I am confident that our Legislature will meet this challenge by funding our priorities and providing tax relief that is sustainable.”
Statewide Infrastructure Upgrades
On Feb. 4, Dalrymple signed into law Senate Bill 2176, making $720 million immediately available for statewide highway and road improvement projects. Legislative leaders fast tracked the legislation so that construction projects can begin at the onset of the 2013 construction season.
Senate Bill 2176, a portion of Dalrymple’s proposed $2.7 billion road and highway improvement package, makes $620 million immediately available for major highway improvement projects in North Dakota’s oil-producing region and in other areas of the state. The bill also includes $100 million for local road projects in cities, counties and townships in non-oil producing counties.
Dalrymple has also signed into law House Bill 1269, making $31 million immediately available for the Southwest Pipeline project and other water systems dedicated to bringing quality water supplies to rural North Dakota.
Senate Bill 2176 and House Bill 1269 will be part of larger funding packages for statewide upgrades to highways, roads, and bridges as well as water supply projects and investments in flood protection.
This week, the Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 2200, a plan to reform the way North Dakota funds its institutions of higher learning. The funding proposal will move to the House for consideration. Under the proposed funding formula, the state’s 11 campuses would be funded based on student credit hours completed rather than initial class enrollments. The formula is based on the actual costs of education, making higher education funding easier to understand and more transparent.
The Senate has also supported Dalrymple’s recommendations to fund capital improvement projects throughout the university system and to enhance the state’s merit-based and needs-based scholarship programs.
Addressing funding for K-12 education, the House of Representatives has supported Dalrymple’s framework for equitable and adequate school funding. Dalrymple said he will continue working with legislators to significantly increase the state’s share of K-12 funding.
The Senate has approved Dalrymple’s recommendation to provide $12 million for Research North Dakota, a matching-grant program designed to support business growth and job creation. Businesses will partner with North Dakota’s research universities to commercialize new technologies.
Dalrymple’s support in developing North Dakota’s Unmanned Aircraft industry has also received Senate approval. Following the governor’s recommendation, the Senate approved $1 million to land a national test site for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). The Senate approved an additional $4 million in development funds contingent on North Dakota’s selection to operate a national test site.
Recognizing the state’s need for affordable housing, legislators are moving forward Dalrymple’s plan to enhance the state’s Housing Incentive Fund (HIF). The Senate has approved increasing the HIF to allow for $20 million in state income tax credits. The Senate also provided $30 million for direct investment in the fund to accelerate housing development. Citizens and businesses that invest in the fund receive a state income tax break of equal value. Developers access this source of low-interest loans in exchange for providing housing for low- and moderate-income residents.
The Legislature is also expected to address the impacts of rapid development in the state’s oil-producing counties. Legislators are considering proposals to provide oil-producing counties with a greater share of the state’s oil production taxes and grants to address the impacts created by rapid development. Other proposed quality-of-life enhancements include:
· Members of the House and Senate are working to enhance public health and safety by approving additional positions within the North Dakota Highway Patrol, the state’s Oil and Gas Division and the North Dakota Department of Health.
· The House has approved a proposal to create a state conservation fund of $30 million.
· The Senate has approved $5 million in grant funds to assist with the establishment of new child care facilities or the expansion of existing child care facilities. The Senate also has established a loan fund for the establishment of child care facilities.