North Dakota Governor Describes Hopes To Spend Remaining $ 1.1 Billion In Federal Coronavirus Aid

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The large infusion of federal dollars, which is part of President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act, has gone unused in state accounts for much of this year, a financial strategy that the governor says is in danger of falling apart. North Dakota miss out on potential returns in the face of high inflation. .

“One of the reasons it’s important for us to invest right now is something looming at the door,” said the second-term governor, who spoke out against allow new “piles and piles of money” to collect dust even as rising inflation depresses its value.

Federal safeguards do not force the state to spend the new money until 2026, and the governor’s recommendation could meet resistance from the state’s fiscally conservative legislature when it meets later this year. Lawmakers have set a flash schedule for their reassembly in November, when they will have to finalize the state redistribution process and may allocate some or all of the Biden administration’s stimulus money. Alternatively, Burgum could bring the Legislature back for a special session, which would give lawmakers more time to spread the influx of money.

In his proposal Thursday, Burgum outlined hundreds of millions of dollars for labor incentives, economic development and various infrastructure projects. Lawmakers already made plans for much of the $ 1.1 billion during their session earlier this year, leaving lawmakers with $ 697 million to allocate.

Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner R-Dickinson said he liked many of the ideas Burgum brought to the table, but added that “the legislature ultimately has some good ideas too, and these will be. they who will make the decision. ”

Control over how the state spends these large infusions of federal funds has at times put the governor at odds with the legislature during the pandemic, as many lawmakers wanted more of a say in the larger aid program that entered the state last year. The Legislature passed legislation during the 2021 legislative session, giving itself more control over the purse strings, even after the governor initially vetoed the proposal.

If the legislature met, it would only have four days of its constitutionally allotted time left to deal with the redistribution and decide what it wants to do with the latest stimulus funds.

If Burgum calls back in-session lawmakers to allow more time, the legislature could remain active indefinitely, a result the governor said would be doomed to fail. But if the governor’s office and legislative leaders come to an agreement that a special session be limited to dealing exclusively with federal aid money, “then we have a real appetite to call people back,” said Burgum.

This may not become a problem if the legislature can accomplish everything within the time frame that the Republican leadership is aiming for. Wardner said he believes lawmakers can handle everything on their plate with four intense days in November.

In addition to stimulus funding already provided by the Legislature, Burgum on Thursday asked for an additional $ 326 million for various workforce incentive programs, tuition assistance for education degrees from the early childhood and a new workforce development center at Bismarck State College. This reduction also includes $ 100 million for gas pipeline expansion in central and eastern North Dakota.

It also recommended an additional $ 237 million for various infrastructure and capital improvements, including hundreds of millions for roads, bridges and water supply projects. An additional $ 134 million would be spent on large healthcare and emergency response projects, which include cybersecurity upgrades to state systems and tens of millions of dollars for renovations to the lab’s lab. ‘State.

In addition to his recommendations for Washington’s latest money package, Burgum advocated spending more than $ 400 million of state surplus revenue from the past two years on income tax credits, diversification economy and an injection of state pension funds.

Of the latter category, Wardner said he was “not very keen” on dipping into state revenues.

Leaders of the Democratic-NPL Party unveiled their priorities for the special session last week, including hundreds of millions of dollars for infrastructure projects and $ 100 million for a paid family leave program. Democrats in North Dakota have been clamoring for paid family time off for years, but the idea has never found any ground in the Republican-dominated legislature.

The House and Senate appropriations committees are due to meet in October to begin work on unearmarked stimulus funds. The Republican leadership said the entire Legislature will meet from November 8 to tackle the redistribution and decide what it wants to do with federal coronavirus aid.

Readers can contact reporter Adam Willis, a member of the Report for America corps, at awillis@forumcomm.com.


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