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House passes surge funding bill

BISMARCK - House lawmakers overwhelmingly approved Friday the $1.1 billion "surge" funding bill that aims to address critical needs in the Oil Patch.

BISMARCK – House lawmakers overwhelmingly approved Friday the $1.1 billion “surge” funding bill that aims to address critical needs in the Oil Patch.

The House voted 90 to 2 to approve amended Senate Bill 2103, which includes the full $450 million requested by the Department of Transportation but cuts the amount of money for cities, counties and townships included in the Senate version.

The bill received more than the two-thirds majority required for an emergency clause, which means funding can more quickly be dispersed so communities can get a jumpstart on the 2015 construction season.

House Majority Leader Al Carlson, R-Fargo, said he hopes the Senate approves the fast-tracked bill Monday and Gov. Jack Dalrymple signs it Tuesday.

The bill contains about $36 million less than the version the Senate passed three weeks ago.

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The bill passed by the House also changes how the $240 million for oil-producing counties will be distributed, meaning some counties that fared well under the Senate bill took a cut in the House bill.

“I’m sure that there are some people that might think they got left behind,” Carlson said. “But there’s an awful lot of money being spread into the infrastructure of this state. And personally, I don’t believe there’s a better investment in the future of North Dakota than our infrastructure to keep our commerce and businesses going.”

House Minority Leader Kenton Onstad, D-Parshall, urged support for the bill, but acknowledged western North Dakota has additional needs.

“There’s a lot in here for everybody,” Onstad said. “Is it enough? I’ll probably say not, but when we look at our revenues, we’ve pretty much maximized what is going to go out there to our western political subdivisions and also across the entire state of North Dakota.”

The bill will drain the unobligated balance of the state’s Strategic Investment and Improvements Fund - currently at $964 million - and rely on revenues coming into the fund during the rest of the biennium to make up the difference. The fund is supported mostly by oil and gas tax revenues and intended for one-time infrastructure projects.

Rep. Jeff Delzer, R-Underwood, chairman of House Appropriations, said some portions of the surge funding will need to be dispersed later since the fund does not have enough dollars immediately available.

In addition to the $450 million for the Department of Transportation, the bill includes:

-- $240 million for the state’s top 10-oil producing counties.

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-- $172 million for “hub” cities Williston, Dickinson, Minot and Watford City.

-- $100 million for cities within the top 10 oil-producing counties, other than the hub cities.

-- $112 million for non-oil-producing counties.

-- $16 million for townships in non-oil-producing counties.

-- $10 million for certain cities bordering the Oil Patch.

Onstad said there’s still a need to change how the oil production tax revenue is distributed to oil-producing counties, which will be addressed later in the session.

Related Topics: DICKINSON
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