Legislative Report #1, May 7, 2019
Representative Rick Holman, ND District 20
LEGISLATION: The Legislature adjourned a week ago, finishing its biennial regular session in 76 days. Governor Burgum had 15 business days to sign the remaining bills delivered to his office. At the end, he has signed a total of 526 bills out of more than 900 bills introduced. The final 53 bills were mostly appropriations bills, with funding for key priorities such as a K-12 per-pupil funding formula that will top $10,000 per student for the first time. Others provided authorization to fund Transportation, Higher Ed, Human Services, Health, Water, Veterans, National Guard, Commerce, and many other state agencies that we deal with on a regular basis.
DRONES: He also signed a bill providing $28 million for a statewide network for unmanned aerial systems. On the North end of District 20 on the West half of the Grand Forks Air Base is the Grand Sky program which deals with unmanned aircraft. In addition to Grand Sky being in our district we also have had an unmanned aircraft using the Hillsboro airport and working with NDSU to study crops in the valley. Unmanned systems are becoming an important part of our future. This all started many years ago with the GPS satellite system that now allows us to know the position and to guide these aircraft, but also tractors in the field and vehicles on the road, or even someone lost in the woods.
VETO: The Governor vetoed a section of a budget bill that would have counted earnings from the state Legacy Fund earned this biennium as part of next biennium’s revenue. The language is in the Office of Management and Budget funding bill and does not count Legacy Fund earnings when they are earned but moves them to the next biennium. Burgum said that the language “manipulates the recognition of state revenues which artificially reduces the general fund by hundreds of millions of dollars.” I think that this was a way to hide the earnings making the financial situation look worse than reality.
TAXES: North Dakota relies heavily on sales and oil tax to fund the necessary costs of state government. A recent memo identifies the 15 counties with the largest taxable sales and purchases and compares them to previous numbers. The report clearly shows the impact of the changes in Western ND that are likely the result of oil activity and population growth. It shows that the 4th quarter 2018 statewide taxable sales and purchases exceeded 4th quarter 2017 taxable sales and purchases by $604,842,482, or 12.6 percent. That’s a good indicator of the population growth combined with higher paying jobs and incomes generating an increase in taxable sales.
DATA: The counties of Grand Forks, Ramsey (Devils Lake), Richland (Wahpeton), and Walsh (Grafton) all had a reduction in taxable sales and purchases greater than 3 percent in 2018 when compared to 2017. The counties of Williams (Williston), Stark (Dickinson), McKenzie (Watford City), Mountrail (Stanley), and Dunn (Dickinson) all had an increase in taxable sales and purchases greater than 10 percent in 2018 compared to 2017. This shows a continuation of our changing economy driven by population changes and increased activity.
CENSUS: The next nationwide census, which will happen in 2020, will solidify some of those changes for the next decade, impacting state policy in taxation, but also with how representation in state government is formalized. A committee has been formed to begin preparations for the 2020 Census.
HIGHER EDUCATION: The North Dakota University System (NDUS) 2019-21 biennium budget for the eleven higher education institutions is set at $648.7 million from the state’s general fund for ongoing operations. This is a 6% increase from the prior biennium and aligns well with State Board of Higher Education’s (SBHE) needs-based budget request submitted before the session. The budget will help to ensure North Dakota’s higher education environment remains strong, helping replace some of the 17% budget reduction in 2017 that led to the elimination of nearly 700 positions. Close to home, most Mayville State employees have not see a pay raise for 4 or 5 years so this is a welcome change.
It’s worth noting that general fund dollars account for only 25% of the NDUS’s total $2.55 billion budget. Another 25% comes from tuition and 50% is funded with auxiliary revenues, grants, and local funding. The previous budget was $2.46 billion.
Thanks for paying attention and enjoy the summer weather that is just around the corner.