Friday, February 20, 2015

“SURGE” Bill Surges Ahead

The North Dakota House passed the “Surge” funding bill Friday afternoon. House members voted 90-2 to approve the amended Senate bill 2103. There was little discussion on the House floor on what many consider one of the most important bills of the session.  That’s because most of the discussion and negotiations had already taken place to ensure the bill can move through the rest of the legislative process smoothly. The bill had its hearing in the House just seven days ago. The bill, once passed by the Senate and signed by the Governor, will send $1.1 billion out immediately for infrastructure projects. The intent is to get the money to local jurisdictions to get a jump-start on the 2015 construction season. A majority of the money goes to the oil region, but dollars do touch every corner of the state.  

After the bill was explained by Appropriations Chairman Jeff Delzer, the House leaders stood up before their fellow Representatives to back the bill. 

“This is emergency funding for western North Dakota,” said Minority Leader Representative Kenton Onstad. “There’s a lot in here for everyone. Is it enough? I’d say not. But given the current revenue forecasts we have maximized what can go out.”

Majority Leader Representative Al Carlson added, “this is a big bill. We worked with the means we have. There’s an awful lot of dollars being spread across the state in infrastructure. And that’s the best use of our dollars for future investments. I would love to see the bill as it was intended to get out fast. It does take all the money out of the Strategic Investment & Improvements Fund (SIIF) but it is a good investment.” 
The bill passed the House and Senate with an emergency clause, meaning the dollars will go out as soon as it is signed into law. It is expected the Senate will approve the House’s amendments to the bill Monday (2/23) and Governor Jack Dalrymple could sign the bill into law Tuesday (2/24).

Rep. Delzer says there is not sufficient funds in the SIIF to foot the entire Surge bill right away. Funding will go out as it is available. He says counties, cities and townships will receive money right away. The Department of Transportation may get some funding immediately and receive the remaining funds as it becomes available.

Here is a break-down of how the $1.1 billion will be distributed:
$450 million - Department of Transportation
$240 million - 10 Major Oil Producing Counties distributed according to [JE1] Upper Great Plains Transportation Needs Study
$172 million - Hub Cities (Minot, Dickinson, Williston & Watford City)
$100 million - Cities in 10 Major Oil Producing Counties (excluding Minot, Dickinson, Williston & Watford City) based on population
$10 million - Fringe Cities distributed based on population
$112 million - 43 remaining Counties distributed by County Major Collection Mileage
$16 million - Townships

It is important to note that we hope and expect, that this won’t be the only legislation to address local government infrastructure this Session.  HB1176, still in House Appropriations increases the formula share of Gross Production Tax revenue to oil counties and cities, and currently includes $120 million for jurisdictions in non-oil counties.  There has been discussion that some of the allocation changes made in the final version of the “Surge” may be addressed in this bill.

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