Every two years, shortly after the November election, and prior to the beginning of the Legislative Session, the sitting and newly elected members of the North Dakota Legislature meet three days for orientation, selection of leadership and appointment of standing committees.
In District 20, Senator Phil Murphy will serve on two Senate committees, Industry, Business and Labor (IB&L) and Natural Resources. Representative Gail Mooney will serve on the Human Services and Government and Veterans Affairs (GVA) committees. I will be replacing retiring Representative Lee Kaldor on the Human Resources Subdivision of the House Appropriations Committee. These committee assignments will provide a good balance of representation in areas important to those we represent.
Leadership selected for the Senate consist of Majority Leader Rich Wardner(R), Dickinson and Minority Leader Mack Schneider(D), Grand Forks and for the House, Majority Leader Al Carlson(R), Fargo and Minority Leader Kenton Onstad(D), Parshall.
On Wednesday morning, Dec. 5th, after two days of orientation and committee selection, Governor Jack Dalrymple presented his proposed budget for the 2013-2015 biennium. In a fifty minute address, he outlined his ideas for funding for the next two years. Following that, the Budget Committee convened for four hours to examine some of the proposed changes in greater detail. Now it’s up to the Legislature to study, discuss, debate, negotiate, and vote, sending it back to the Governor for his signature by the end of the session in late April.
North Dakota’s budget is in fine shape, so it was no surprise that the Governor is proposing significant funding to deal with areas of need, some which have been deferred and some which have come forward because of the rapid development in the Western part of the state. This report will outline some of the more notable items with more specific detail coming in subsequent reports.
- Tax Relief and Education: For both Higher Education and P-12 Education the governor has proposed changes in the funding formulas, with the intent of providing more state support for P-12. For the public schools the new formula continues the 75 mill property tax relief from the past four years and increases it by another 60 mills giving a possible 714 million in property tax relief, depending on how it is applied locally. A new formula for colleges proposes funding based on completed credits. I’m sure we will be discussing the pros and cons of these changes and how they impact the schools and colleges within our individual districts. Mayville State received good news as funding requests for replacing the, beyond repair, “Old Gym” and fixing surface drainage problems on the East side of campus were included. To help with another area of need, especially at the smaller campuses, the proposal increases the amount available for student mental health services, To keep up with rising demand and inflation and cut down on turnover, annual increases of four percent for higher education employees are included.
- Transportation: In addition to nearly doubling the amount of regular funding, the budget proposal contains over one-billion dollars in one-time infrastructure funding. Much of that will go to the needs in the West but a significant amount will be spread throughout the state to help counties, cities and townships improve and maintain our critically important network of roads and bridges.
- Health Care and Public Service: Also important to our district are recommendations for enhanced rural health care. The proposal calls for wage increases for caregivers to help keep up with the increasing demand while reducing the amount of turnover. For public employees, annual wage increases of 3-5 percent are recommended with the higher amount based on evaluated performance.
- Other Tax Relief: In addition to the property tax, the budget proposal also lowers the state income tax rate giving an additional 100 million back to North Dakota citizens. It also raises the homestead exemption threshold allowing many more of our senior citizens a tax reduction on their primary residence. Separate from the Governor’s proposal the Interim Tax Committee has forwarded a homestead exemption for all citizens which will be part of the overall discussion. Others have suggested returning some of the surplus to our citizens with an income tax credit tied to a percentage of apartment rent.
As the session develops there will be other proposals coming forward dealing with policy and finance. The Governor’s recommendations will lead to further discussions and be combined with other ideas leading toward the final product. Some will see it as not going far enough and others will see it as too aggressive. Subsequent reports from me, Sen. Phil Murphy and Rep. Gail Mooney will try to keep you informed as the 2013 Legislative Session develops. As always, do not be hesitant to contact any of us for information or to provide input.
Your thoughts and ideas are important.
Rep. Rick Holman firstname.lastname@example.org 701.238.1124