North Dakota would spend 400% more on Medicaid Expansion under GOP Plan According to Republican U.S. Senator

U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana)

Last week I asked if North Dakota was in a position to pay more for Medicaid Expansion. Under the Republican repeal and replacement of Obamacare – which was enthusiastically supported by Rep. Kevin Cramer – that is exactly what would be expected of our state. A new projection by Republican U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy states North Dakota could expect to pay 400% more for the Medicaid Expansion population.

The state’s dismal budget situation makes that transition more difficult. The question is, will the Republican Legislature be willing to pick up a 400% increase in state spending for the Medicaid Expansion population, or would they simply drop that coverage and potentially leave those covered in limbo. In addition, it is not just the coverage of individual’s health care, Medicaid Expansion has been a life line for rural hospitals. It wasn’t just consumer advocates pressing the Legislature to expand Medicaid under Obamacare; it was the hospitals and the Greater North Dakota Chamber of Commerce. The expansion has been good for North Dakota business. With all that said, I’m still not optimistic because of the unsustainable budget the Republicans have left after this session.

Data: Government Accountability Office data analyzed by Sen. Bill Cassidy’s office; Table: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios

Some people are holding onto hope because the Senate needs to work on the rushed House version Kevin Cramer helped narrowly pass. Don’t get too optimistic when it comes salvaging Medicaid Expansion. Yesterday it was reported the Senate Republicans are focused on killing Medicaid Expansion. The effort is spearheaded by South Dakota U.S. Senator John Thune who said, “At some point you’re gonna get back to the original [reimbursement rate], it’s just a question of how quickly that happens.” What Thune is saying is instead of North Dakota receiving 90% of Medicaid Expansion’s expense coming from the Federal government, the reimbursement would go to the same as traditional Medicaid. Currently, that reimbursement is 50-50. The Republican debate in Congress right now isn’t whether to keep Medicaid Expansion; it is when will it be phased out.

North Dakota is not in a budget situation to pick up the costs unless a dramatic uptick in our economy occurs. Even then, it would take a little more to cover this expense to help our neighbors and rural hospitals. Political courage being one. If this burden shifts to the state, I’m curious if the North Dakota Chamber of Commerce, the Hospital Association, AARP, and the other various interests groups will rally behind the cause again.

Continued Calls for a Full Performance Audit of Oil and Gas Division is Warranted

Last Friday, Lauren Donovan of the Bismarck Tribune published an article stating 38,700 emails had been deleted by the Department of Mineral Resource’s Oil and Gas Division but later recovered after an open records request. Those who instigated the request suggest the deletion of these emails was at the directive of Lynn Helms, the Director of the Department. The situation leads to further questions, all of which could be answered with a full performance audit of the Oil and Gas Division.

We’ve written about this particular performance audit more than once over the six months of our publication. Our first call for an audit was included in a post about creating smart oversight for pipeline infrastructure. Secondly, and much more relevant was when we asked Governor Doug Burgum to uphold his campaign pledge of supporting this very audit during the GOP primary.

READ: GOVERNOR BURGUM SHOULD PURSUE OIL & GAS AUDIT (AUDIO INCLUDED)

Repeated attempts to move forward with this audit in the Legislature have been to no avail. The argument continuously used by Director Lynn Helms is that the Department is regularly audited. True, as is every department. But those are routine audits, not performance audits. For a clear example of how the revelations differ from the two, we can look at the Department of Trust Lands. After routine audits were performed things seems to be running okay. Then a performance audit was undertaken which revealed startling mismanagement and demand for corrective actions. The performance audit led former Governor Jack Dalrymple to order over a dozen changes as recommended by the performance audit. 

The Legislative Audit and Fiscal Review Committee can and should add this to the agenda at their next meeting. I’ve heard Lynn Helms may be invited to give preemptive remarks to the committee. This is a rather odd step that has not necessarily been granted to other agencies and institutions. It leads us to question why it would be allowed in this instance.

Section 54-10-01 lays out specifically how the Auditor and the committee have authority to make this request. Here is the language from Section 4 of 54-10-01:

Perform or provide for performance audits of state agencies, or the agencies’ blended component units or discreetly presented component units, as determined necessary by the state auditor or the legislative audit and fiscal review committee.

An interesting and unexpected variable was thrown into this equation recently. The questionable separation of the Performance Audit Manager, Jason Wahl, and the Auditor’s Office now headed by Josh Gallion. Wahl’s position was removed in the legislative session when Rep. Mike Nathe introduced an amendment to the Auditor’s budget. Governor Burgum vetoed the language, and the Senate upheld the veto. Nathe targeted Wahl specifically and claims it was for budgetary reasons. I’m not buying it. Others in Bismarck have indicated the move may have been more political if not outright personal. We will continue to work to get to the bottom of it. Interestingly, Nathe serves on the Legislative Audit and Fiscal Review Committee. The whole situation leaves me to doubt the Auditors Office would make this a priority without the request from the Legislative Committee.

Interested parties content on maintaining the status quo complain this could turn into a political witch hunt, to which I say if there is nothing going on then there is nothing to worry about. In fact, the intent of the performance audit is to find areas of improvement and government efficiency by providing guidelines for agencies to adopt. That is exactly what happened with the Department of Trust Lands. It is also why Governor Doug Burgum supported the idea less than a year ago. This performance audit seems to fit neatly into the messaging Republicans have laid out before the voters post session and equally to the repeated demands of the Democrats. There is no reason to not undertake this audit. Royalty owners, oil and gas companies, and taxpayers should demand it.

Is North Dakota in a Position to Pick Up More of the Medicaid Tab?

Is North Dakota in a position to take on more of Medicaid’s funding? That is an important question to consider while Congress debates health care reform. Under the rushed plan passed by the House of Representatives, Medicaid would be shifted to a new funding formula. Reports suggest the new formula would limit federal expenditures and place a bigger burden onto the states. The official Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score is expected to be released on May 24th.

Often people simply equate Medicaid to poor people. Partly true, but Medicaid also funds many services for children, women, working individuals, and helps keep rural hospitals afloat. It is so much more than just low income individuals that benefit. These vital services are funded jointly by the federal government and states. Currently, the funding for traditional Medicaid comes from an equation known as Federal Medical Assistance Percentages (FMAP). Over the past couple of years, when North Dakota’s budget grew, our state and federal share became approximately 50-50. The state picked up more while our federal reimbursement diminished because we could afford it. Under current federal law, states cannot receive less than a 50% federal match.

Medicaid Expansion, part of Obamacare, expanded eligibility in states who voted to allow it and is primarily funded by the federal government. That funding will be phased down to 90% federal funding by the year 2020. States will then pick up the other 10%. In 2013, North Dakota expanded Medicaid to a lot of people’s surprise. It was renewed this year, and approximately 20,000 North Dakotans have benefited from its passage.

Though the Medicaid funding formulas are different, one thing is common; both rely heavily on constant federal funding. Under the current GOP plan in Congress, that federal funding would be capped putting more pressure on state budgets to either increase their expenditures or cut services to individuals and hospitals that so desperately rely on it. Which begs the question if North Dakota is in an ideal position for this? My answer: absolutely not.

We saw the dramatic downturn in our state’s budget over the last two years because of volatile commodities and poor fiscal management by the Republican-led Legislature. To make the budget balance this session, they cut services and dug deep into budgetary reserves. The method does not look to be sustainable over the long run and for future budgets. The decrease in federal funding doesn’t mean the cost of providing these services will go down. In fact, costs will likely continue to rise. Is the legislature prepared to fill that gap with increase general fund dollars? I’m not confident they are. Governor Burgum and legislators themselves should not be eager for these federal changes.

And where in the hell are the local associations when it comes to speaking publicly on this federal healthcare bill? A couple of weeks ago, the Fargo Forum ran a story saying local organizations remain quiet or did not return requests for comment on the GOP health care replacement plan. (Ironically, when I reached out to the Forum reporter for comment, he didn’t return my request either.) Where does the North Dakota Hospital Association (NDHA) stand on the potential changes to Medicaid? The rural hospitals they represent have a lot at stake in this debate. Not only do they rely on these organizations to speak up, but they can serve the greater public by informing them of the potential impacts.

Others like to point out their silence is because the reform has a long ways to go before becoming law. They’re correct. But, I wish those same individuals would tell that to Congressman Cramer who grabbed a six pack after voting for these changes and went to celebrate at the White House. If people aren’t informed on the impacts and what they might mean for family, their place of work, or their rural hospital, the Senate might not make the changes necessary. These groups speak up all the time while legislation is being crafted, what is different this time? It is too important to remain silent for political reasons.

If Congress is successful in passing health care reform with the current changes to Medicaid in the next two years, the North Dakota Legislature was only successful in holding onto three legislative days. They failed to maintain ten as they had hoped for. Three days on something so large means a rushed public debate. If North Dakota needs to pay more to maintain access to vital care delivered through Medicaid, does the Legislature have the will to do so? We better begin this debate sooner rather than later.

Legislative Session is Over. What Now for ND xPlains?

I’ve had a number of readers reach out to me with the same basic question. Now that the North Dakota Legislative Session is over, what’s next for ND xPlains? Rather than answer each individually, I decided to go this route and lay out my intentions for this platform and what you can expect in the months ahead.

First, we recognize that just because legislators aren’t in Bismarck for the time doesn’t mean their presence isn’t felt throughout the state. The decisions they made from January through May of this year will have impacts for the next two years. We will push back on the descriptions written and told through rose colored glasses but, we’ll also give credit where and when it is due. Acknowledgment that the cuts and transfers in budgets have a real human impact will be at the core of some of our content. It will be a deep dive into the impacts from this session and sessions past (think oil tax cut) where real numbers and narratives will be presented.

Of course we’ll follow elections, candidates, political parties and platforms, and those positioning themselves for appointed government jobs (do we really want people campaigning for U.S. Attorney in the opinion pages of our newspapers?) People have been floating their names around for high office in both parties whether they think it is public or not. North Dakota is a small state, word travels. Watching candidates navigate an electorate upset with politics in general will keep us busy.

You’ll also get a pulse of the prairie when we take the conversation to you. New Happy Hour in the Heartland podcasts will be coming soon. Happy Hour went on hiatus as I filled in on regular radio and wrote on the rapid developments in the legislative session. The podcast will bring the real conversations had by average people in an open, honest, and judgment-free environment. The conversations are unfiltered, unscripted, and at times may move you out of your comfort zone.

Providing analysis on policy decisions and political maneuvering in an attempt to inform sprinkled with commentary. That’s our goal. We will work to remind you not to settle, that you deserve the best government and decision makers available whether they’re Democrat, Republican, or Independent. We can and will debate on government’s role and who the best decision makers are for the times we face.

Finally, I want to thank you for your support over the first six months of ND xPlains. Whether it has been a private message, stopping me in public for a quick word, making a contribution, signing up for the free subscription, or asking me to speak to your group it has all been very appreciated. The rate of which you accepted this page into your reading and source for information was humbling. I look forward to continuing our journey of talking North Dakota Politics. Plain. Simple. Direct.

Tyler Axness
Creator and Writer

Congressman Cramer Demonstrates the need for an Independent Investigation Removed from Partisan Politics

It is past time to remove partisan politics from investigations involving Russia and last year’s election. We’ve called on that for months on our Facebook page. The questionable timing of FBI Director James Comey’s firing now demands it. The unexpected removal has seen push back of all kinds. Some demanding truth. Others more partisan in nature. To me, the most troubling push back has been partisan.

Republicans have been delighted to point out Democrats have flipped their thoughts when it comes to Comey. Some of that criticism is justified, but shouldn’t be painted with as broad a brush. Often that criticism has simply dismissed the current role the FBI had in an ongoing investigation. Here is the thing, it isn’t just Democrats who have flipped on Comey. Republicans have changed their stance also. Case in point, here is how Congressman Kevin Cramer characterized the FBI Director last November. In an interview, Cramer told Chris Berg on 630 POV:

…Mr. Comey, as we’ve heard all along is a man of great integrity. – Congressman Kevin Cramer (Nov. 1st, 2016)

Now, the “man of great integrity” was fired and Congressman Cramer has cheered the move by President Trump. Cramer went on to say in that interview, “…the FBI needs to continue its investigation. The House committee oversight needs to launch an investigation and start hearings. I would suspect the judiciary committee. But if the oversight committee would take it on and I expect they would, that could go on with an FBI investigation and Justice Department investigation as well. The biggest thing we’ve to do is exercise our oversight of the committee and other agencies, including DOJ, because they’ve proven to be a very partisan agency.

The difference is it was Hillary Clinton, not Donald Trump; Loretta Lynch, not Jeff Sessions; an email server, not election interference he was talking about. Now, because the subject of the investigation is Donald Trump and what role, if any, Russia may have played in last year’s election, Cramer finds calls for continued investigation removed from a “partisan agency” as “laughable in a pathetic way.”

Therein lies why we need an independent investigation removed from partisan politics. Congress is full of people like Kevin Cramer whose position tumbles in the winds of political change. There are people in both political parties that participate in this despicable shift in position for partisan purposes. The American people deserve better than that. They deserve to find the truth.

This investigation is about finding exactly how a foreign power may have interjected itself in our democratic process. It is about finding out who, if anyone, played a role. It is about preserving the integrity of our domestic systems and democracy. It is bigger than Republicans and Democrats. Why be afraid of an independent commission? Why dismiss it as “laughable” or a conspiracy as Cramer has done? If there is nothing, then let the evidence presented in a credible, independent, investigation removed from politics, prove it.

Congressman Kevin Cramer Voted to make Insurance more Expensive for 8 Million Veterans

With his vote for Trumpcare, hereon known as CramerCare, Congressman Kevin Cramer voted to make healthcare more expensive for millions of veterans in America. One of the provisions in CramerCare was to prohibit veterans who are eligible for Veterans Affairs (VA) health care from receiving tax credits to help them afford insurance in the private market. The tax credits were established under Obamacare. Since this provision to eliminate the tax credit was included in the original version of CramerCare, the CBO score in March estimated it would impact approximately eight million American veterans.

READ: Congressman Cramer Votes for Rushed, Unknown, GOP Healthcare Plan

Not all veterans who are eligible for VA care enroll for its services. One of the many reasons a veteran may not choose to enroll in VA services is because they live in a rural state (think North Dakota) and would need to travel a long distance to receive care. In addition, others simply want to rely on the service from their local doctor. Removal of the tax credit will make healthcare more expensive for veterans and potentially force them into VA services. Unfortunately, VA case loads have been greatly lagging as President Trump’s hiring freeze through Executive Order prohibited them from hiring new employees.

North Dakota is home to over 56,000 veterans according to the North Dakota Department of Veterans AffairsCramer has previously used their imagery for campaign purposes. You may recall in 2014 when Cramer unethically used the Veterans Cemetery in North Dakota for a campaign ad in his race against George Sinner. The ad used veterans’ headstones as if they were props and threatened funding for the cemetery. Cramer later took down the ad from TV after increased pressure but would not apologize for his distasteful act. Yet, the internet never forgets. Here is the 2014 Cramer ad.

Cramer used veterans for political campaign purposes similar to the way he has used political talking points against Obamacare to win elections. Unfortunately after winning, he has decided his campaign against Obamacare was more important than his campaign for veterans. In his rush to repeal and replace Obamacare, he knowingly made it more difficult for millions of American veterans to afford access to healthcare outside of the VA he claims to despise. After his vote, Cramer grabbed a sixer, jumped on a bus, and headed over to the White House to celebrate this move in the Rose Garden. Our veterans aren’t to be used as props in a campaign ad and they sure as hell should be treated better than what CramerCare would do to their healthcare.

READ: The Hunt for Obamacare’s “Secret” Replacement and Congressman Kevin Cramer’s Role

NDGOP: “…New Tax Rate would put LESS money into Oil Tax Buckets.”

The political debate surrounding the Republican decision to cut the oil extraction tax in 2015 continues over two years later. Rightly so, because this rushed change to North Dakota’s oil tax collections is having profound long-term impacts on our state budget. Moreover, the Republican decision to cut the oil extraction tax was passed and implemented without any study or prior analysis. The end product of this arbitrary oil tax cut has cost the state $235,530,746 to date according to Tax Department figures.

First, a quick refresher on how the oil extraction tax works. There are two separate components at play here. First, the tax rate itself, which was established by North Dakota voters via initiated measure in November of 1980. Second, the so-called “trigger,” which was a provision to automatically lower the voter-approved rate when the price of oil stayed below a specific dollar amount for an extended period of time. The trigger was created by the North Dakota Legislature in 1991. The 1991 bill to create the trigger was SB 2279 and was sponsored entirely by Republican legislators. One of those sponsors was then Representative Rich Wardner, the current Senate Majority Leader from Dickinson.

The two parts to the oil extraction tax – the tax rate and the trigger – are entirely separate policy decisions. One was created by the people in 1980; the other was created by the Legislature eleven years later. Thus, illustrating that we can change one without changing the other. But, that wasn’t what happened in the final days of the 2015 legislative session.

The Republican machine, along with its public relations specialists and oil industry lobbyists, continues to manipulate the narrative regarding the decision to cut the oil extraction tax. Only now, Republican talking heads are using simplistic catch phrases developed in last year’s Presidential campaign, calling legitimate disagreements over tax policy “fake news.” To state firmly that the tax rate and the separate trigger must be acted upon at the same time with the same legislative action is patently false. Those who claim otherwise are practicing the art of saying anything while knowing nothing.

Yes, eliminating the trigger prevented a huge revenue loss. But every legislator – Republican and Democrat – along with every policy expert I know of agreed the trigger should be eliminated. On the other hand, following the elimination of the trigger with a controversial decision to permanently cut the oil extraction tax rate from 6.5% to 5% without question caused loss of revenue. Of course the averted revenue loss from eliminating the trigger is bigger than the loss from the cut to the tax rate, at least in the short term. But, lumping these two separate policy decisions together is spin at best and dishonest at worst.

Senator Rich Wardner

By their own admission, the Republican’s decision to cut the extraction tax rate would bring in less revenue for the state. As a sponsor of the 2015 bill, Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner – the same Rich Wardner who created the trigger in 1991 – admitted it on record during the Senate Finance and Tax hearing on April 21st, 2015. When giving his testimony in support of the oil tax cut, Wardner had this to say:

If everything were the same, the revenue under the new tax rate would put less money into the oil tax buckets. – Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner (R – Dickinson)

“If everything were the same” i.e. keeping the rate at 6.5% while also eliminating the trigger, we’d have maintained $235,530,756 in revenue according to the Republican-controlled Tax Department. That scenario is one of the alternatives offered by Democratic lawmakers not once, but twice in 2015. It was also offered in 2013 by Democrats.

All attempts by Democrats to simply remove the trigger were rejected by the Republicans.

(BELOW): A month-to-month breakdown of what each proposal would offer in tax collections. The blue bar shows what the state would have collected if lawmakers simply eliminated the trigger without cutting the tax rate.

(BELOW): A cumulative chart since January of 2016. This chart includes the third bar without the tax cut passed by Republicans which has been “conveniently” left out by others.

It never was a take-it-or-leave-it in 2015 as Republicans would like you to believe. Their political decision to couple the elimination of the trigger with a reduction in the tax rate itself was a decision made behind closed doors. Not only did Democrats offer a plan to eliminate the trigger while leaving the tax rate untouched, they also wanted to study what the most effective oil tax rate would be. The purpose of the study: at what rate would we be able to maintain our budget priorities while also satisfying economic growth?

I don’t think that this bill has not been thought out. YOU (Rep. Mitskog, D – Wahpeton) have maybe not been part of these discussions, but I have. It has been thought out for awhile now. – Rep. Craig Headland (R – Montpelier)

Rep. Craig Headland

Instead, the Republicans insisted on an arbitrary cut to the tax rate for purely political reasons. It is important to note their original wish was to cut the rate from 6.5% to 4.5%. They settled for 5% based on nothing more than wanting to cut taxes for oil companies. Rep. Tom Kading said as much in the House Finance and Tax meeting when he said any change to the trigger without lowering the tax rate would not pass the House Chamber. Politics, not prudent policy decisions, ruled the five days this bill was debated at the end of the 2015 legislative session.

Go through the minutes. It was repeatedly asked what Republicans were basing their decision to cut the oil extraction tax on. Nobody – not Al Carlson, not Rich Wardner, not Craig Headland, not Dwight Cook – not a single one of them could provide a coherent answer as to why they wanted to cut the oil extraction tax rate. That’s because no study or prior-analysis was conducted to determine what the most effective extraction tax rate would be. Remember, the rate of 6.5% at the time brought us to being the second largest oil producing state in the nation.

The false narrative that the only options were to go along with the Republican tax cut or maintain the status quo and have zero tax revenue while the trigger was on simply isn’t true. Blindsided with the 11th-hour oil tax bill left people scrambling. Nobody in the Republican majority would express the full impact of this permanent cut in the tax rate. Perhaps it was either because they didn’t know the impact of their decision, or maybe they just didn’t want you to know.

We continue to see people paint a false narrative by omitting information relevant to having an open, honest debate. The bottom line is that this was a politically motivated tax cut. It produced a lower tax rate not based on research, but on what was politically popular to do at the time for campaign donors and special interests. Because of the partisan decision to cut the oil extraction tax in 2015, vital services and tax rates for living, breathing North Dakotans are being impacted. In our upcoming series, you will learn exactly how this impacts you.

Oil Tax Collections Comparison Chart by Tyler Axness on Scribd

Congressman Cramer Votes for Rushed, Unknown, GOP Healthcare Plan

North Dakota’s lone Congressman Kevin Cramer voted for the rushed, unknown, non-analyzed Republican plan to replace Obamacare today. The bill had zero committee hearings and no scoring from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The public couldn’t even see the text of the bill the day before 217 Congressional Republicans cheered its narrow passage.

I’m not surprised by Congressman Cramer’s vote. After all, Cramer had to vote for something, or else it would have been proven that his campaign talk on replacing Obamacare was a complete and utter fraud. He simply needed to live up to his political rhetoric for the last six years following his symbolic votes to repeal the plan. Therein lies the problem in our politics today. It is full of people like Kevin Cramer who rush to uphold their political party’s image no matter the cost to the American people. Those costs on this particular item could be life or death for some.

READ: The Hunt for Obamacare’s “Secret” Replacement and Congressman Kevin Cramer’s Role

We don’t know everything about this bill. For example, we don’t know exactly how many Americans Cramer voted to leave uninsured because of last minute deal making. That will be revealed over the next few days and weeks when the CBO scores the bill already passed. Preliminary reviews show what is for certain is if you have something now considered as a preexisting condition your costs will be allowed to go up. Or, if you are a senior citizen, your costs will be allowed to go up. Or, if you’re a woman, your costs will be allowed to go up.

Cramer’s vote shows his ego as an elected official is matched only by his callousness toward women, older Americans, poor North Dakotans, and children with disabilities. It is not that he didn’t want to wait to vote on the bill until after he saw the detailed impacts his vote would have. It is that he simply didn’t care.

READ: Healthcare Costs Versus Access is Front and Center Again with GOP Plan

Burgum Vetoes Public Employee Retirement Power Grab by Carlson

Governor Doug Burgum line-item vetoed a number of bills over the last couple of days. One of the budgets Burgum line-item vetoed was the Public Employees and Retirement System (PERS). Make no mistake; this was a direct rebuttal to House Majority Leader Al Carlson.

You may recall, the end of the session was drawn out by a power struggle between what Carlson wanted and what Senator Rich Wardner wanted. The two went back and forth over the PERS budget, funding for Dickinson State University, and other Higher Education prioritizes. A grand compromise was reached last week, and legislators went back home on Thursday.

The changes in the PERS budget would have added twelve legislators to the Health Care Coverage Committee and mandated the board to look at self-insurance. All of the changes in sections six through thirteen were Carlson demands. On May 2nd, Burgum vetoed sections six through thirteen. This is a welcome development for the public employees I’ve talked to.

It is an interesting display of authority. At the end of the legislative session, Burgum, Carlson, and Wardner stood at a podium and congratulated each other for completing the session. A couple of days later, Burgum removed a lot of what Carlson demanded after he left town. Wardner got to keep what he wanted. Were Wardner and Burgum in on this together?

Many of us have wondered where Burgum was during his first session. Perhaps this goes to show he was plotting all along. It will be curious to see if Carlson, known for his vindictive ways, will attempt to call the House back and try to override the veto. There are three legislative days left meaning leaders can call themselves back to work. It is highly doubtful the Senate would go along seeing its leader was a clear victor in this game of politics.

HB 1023 Veto Message by Tyler Axness on Scribd

Federal Deal May Have Funds to Reimburse North Dakota for DAPL Costs

On Sunday night, Congress reached a bipartisan deal to fund the federal government through the end of its fiscal year which ends September 30th. Included in the compromise is approximately $15 million for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Emergency Federal Law Enforcement Assistance Program. This program could provide federal funds to reimburse state and local law enforcement for the costs associated with the Dakota Access Pipeline protests.

This program has been short of funding for the past few years which has limited its reach. The compromise included this funding thanks in part to the push from U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp. Heitkamp has been pressing both this Congress and the last Congress to give the program a boost emphasizing the need for federal aid to cover the millions of dollars spent by state and local law enforcement during the DAPL protest.

During the protest and immediately following, we heard locally elected officials insisting the federal government should help cover the costs. In September of 2016, former Governor Dalrymple issued formal requests seeking federal aid. Those elected officials, including Governor Dalrymple, were right to make these requests. Seven months later, the federal money may finally be available.

I emphasize “may provide” because the work is not done. Senator Heitkamp has successfully convinced her colleagues of the funding’s importance to our state. Now, it is up to the State of North Dakota under Governor Burgum to submit an application for the funds. There is no guarantee we’ll receive a portion of the $15 million which is where Heitkamp’s continued efforts will be needed once the state applies. Truthfully, it is tough for anyone to argue the merits of our case. I anticipate we will get a share of the money.

This is a good development to start the week. Persistence seems to have paid off to this point. Obviously, there is more to be done if we wish to be fully reimbursed, but this potential is welcomed.