Because of Conference Committees, this week has been busier than usual. Some of the budget bills have significant differences between the House and Senate versions requiring several meetings to iron out the differences. Already one committee that I serve on has been disbanded because we could not reach resolution. A new one will be appointed.
The budgets for Veterans Affairs Commission and Veterans Home seems are coming together after a few meetings. Adjustments for the new facility in Lisbon as well as plans for a new workshop required some changes. The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation required us to examine a possible increase in prisoners as a result of a new DWI policy. Completion of the new 64 million dollar prison in Bismarck will also require changes in operating costs.
Additions to the Health Department budget to deal with the increased oil production in Western ND are necessary to deal with environmental issues such as water quality, chemical spills, and air quality. Increased population means more pressure on health care facilities which need to pay more and find more people to provide the services. An increase in food service establishments requires more inspections. Man camps and other forms of new housing increase the amount of all types of waste. Disposal has to be done in a proper and legal way.
On a broader scale, the county health units that we all deal with, the regional Human Service Centers and a host of others organizations that help us all lead healthier lives are part of the Health Department.
The largest state budget of almost 3 billion dollars is for the Department of Human Services. Because of North Dakota’s healthy economy the Federal match will be reduced to the lowest possible level of 50%, requiring increased state funding just to maintain current benefits. Increased costs of care, housing, food, and other essentials for the hundreds of people receiving care and benefits from state agencies as well continued support for several non-profit agencies will require a significant increase in overall funding. This Conference Committee on this budget bill will need to have many meetings to work out the details.
In just a few days, all this will have to come together. Agency budgets that start with a proposal from the Governor, and amended by the House and Senate are eventually returned to the Governor and become the funding that keeps these departments serving the people of our state for the next two years.
Spring is finally here……Enjoy. Rick