Lawmakers no longer have an excuse to delay overdue investments across the state. Last week, appropriators from both the House and Senate received an updated forecast showing a sharp rebound in the state’s economy. Analysts predict the state will receive close to $1 billion more from oil and gas taxes over the next two-year budget than what was projected earlier. Coupled with the $1.1 billion the state will receive from the federal American Rescue Plan, now is the moment to think big.
Weeks ago, NDx called on the ND Senate to restore some of the investment in the lone bonding-bill still alive in the Legislature. The House took the original $1 billion proposal and shrunk it to $680 million before sending it to the upper chamber. Senate Majority Leader Rich Warder, one of the sponsors of the bill, has moved to do just that. Wardner would like to see $180 million put back into the bill.
Wardner’s wish is a good step in the right direction but still falls short of the original promises made behind the podium in Bismarck to start the session. It is likely the legislature will debate how to use the federal dollars – the dollars our all-Republican delegation rejected – to subsidize many of the projects left out of the bonding bill. The billion dollars sent from Washington will certainly be used for one-time investments.
Townships, school districts, cities, and counties have investment needs but not the means to fund the projects. Unfortunately, promises have been made over several years from the state to assist those local governments that haven’t come to fruition. They can live up to their word because of federal dollars and a rosier in-state budget forecast. Lawmakers can achieve this without raising state taxes and without forcing the hand of local governments to raise property taxes. No excuses. Think big ND.