"Surge" Funding Bill For Oil Impacts Bloats To $1.1 Billion

At the beginning of the legislative session there were two competing approaches to sending a quick dose of cash to western North Dakota to address oil impacts.

The first was SB2103, the “surge” bill, proposed by a group of western North Dakota lawmakers. It represented $845 million in funding, with $300 million going to oil patch counties.

The second was Governor Jack Dalrymple’s executive budget recommendation, which lawmakers have been calling the “jumpstart,” which totalled $873 million total but gave zero to oil patch counties and instead appropriates $473 million to the highway department.

You can see a breakdown of the differences between the two proposals in this Legislative Council document.

So how will lawmakers reconcile the two proposals? It looks like, for the most part, they’re just going to lump them together into one massive $1.1 billion spending bill. According to the latest amendments to SB2103, the Senate Appropriations Committee amended the “surge” bill to include $300 million in funding for the highway department.

That funding was the major difference between Dalrymple’s proposal and what the western lawmakers had put forward. So even as lawmakers fret about the impact of falling oil prices on state revenues, it appears as though the Senate Appropriations committee members decided to check the “all of the above” box on surge/jumpstart spending.

The committee kicked SB2013 out with a 13-0 “do pass” recommendation vote. The full Senate is scheduled to vote on the committee’s amendments today, and Senators could suspend the rules to vote on final passage today as well sending the bill immediately to the House (First Lady Betsy Dalrymple’s civics test bill got similar rush treatment last week).

It will be interesting to see what the House makes of the amendments. There is a rush to get this funding approved as western leaders want to begin planning for the summer construction season, which is probably why the skids were greased by lumping the governor’s recommended highway department spending in with the rest.

Supporting western North Dakota has become a bit like “supporting the troops” in national politics. Lawmakers are not going to do anything at this point which makes them look unsympathetic to western North Dakota needs.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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