What began as over a $1 billion bonding plan has been slashed to $680 million in the ND House. Embracing the concept of bonding for infrastructure is long overdue in the state. It is unfortunate, with all the obvious needs from border to border, the House wants to short-change the bill. The ND Senate should pick up some of the pieces on the House Appropriations room floor and steer us down a better path.
Before the session officially gaveled in, there were three bonding proposals. Governor Doug Burgum presented $1.25 billion in his budget address last December. The NDGOP legislative leadership took to cameras and press releases saying they’ve been working on a $1.1 billion bill that would have something for everyone. Dem-NPL lawmakers offered a $2 billion bill that added affordable housing to the infrastructure plan.
As we approach the halfway point of the session known as “cross over,” the Legislature is shrinking from its stated desires. Burgum’s proposal was shredded before hitting the committee room tables in the Legislature. The Dem-NPL proposal was outright rejected in the Senate. The House approved a little over half of what they originally proposed.
It is entirely possible to do too little in the form of infrastructure investment. Previous concepts of funding have fallen short. Look no further than the promises made last session with the “prairie dog initiative.” Project planning came to a screeching halt. The money simply wasn’t there under the formula devised by these same lawmakers. The longer the delay, the more expensive these projects will become.
We have the means. Interest rates are on our side. Do lawmakers have the political will to get it done? Communities across the state need them to go big. The Senate will choose the path forward. Will they bring us closer towards a meaningful infrastructure plan or cave to the political pressure from their colleagues in the House?