Legislative Report March 9 District 31

The North Dakota House of Representatives is completingwork on the last few house resolutions and start working on the Senate bills. A total of 269 bills and 14 resolutions were passed by the Senate and sent to the House. The deadline for passing resolutions to the other chamber was Friday, and the House completedwork on those.Both chambers are waiting for the new revenue forecast that isto be heard on Mondayor Tuesday.

Once we have the revenues, we will reevaluate proposed appropriations for agency budgets.  Also reconsideration for such items as state employee salary will be discussed sincethere is a difference between the House and the Senate proposal.  The House has proposed a 2% increase for the first year of the biennium and 2% for the second year while the senate is 2% and 3%.In the first full week after crossover, the House has passed some of the noncontroversial Senate bills.

The committees are working on amendments and discussing possible changes to others as part of the committee process. Education and Environment Division of House Appropriations is currently working senate proposed budgets for Department of Public Instruction (DPI), Parks and Recreation, and the State Water Commission (SWC).Other budgets will be heard this coming week.There are many facets of the DPI budget but one of major discussion is getting all the K-12 schools on the “formula.” 

That comes with a hefty one-time expense that we are trying to determine if it is affordable.  We understand it has long-term financial benefitshowever appropriating the entire funds from this biennium may not be feasible. With the SWC budget, two major water projects, the $2.75 billion dollar Fargo Diversion Flood control project and the $1.1 billion dollar Red River Valley Water Supply are of concern.  Not only is the state cost share for these projects a long-termissue but the opportunity for legal delays is unknownand could raise the costs.We cannot afford to have fundedand started construction of these projects only to have them delayed by the courts thus leaving the taxpayer with “stranded assets.”As part of the SWC budget, Southwest Water presented its budget request to the House of approximately $30.5 million.  The senate had the SWC budget firstand proposed approximately $16.5 million.  Howeverit is part of a“bucket” consisting of other regional water supply and municipal water supply projects.  Mandan’s request for $12 million water intake project is also within that bucket. SWC has the authority to move money within abucket to other like projects but cannot move money from one bucket to another without Legislative approval.

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