Thursday, April 2, 2015

NDACo Week 13 Legislative Report

While a few conference committees and some appropriations committee work will be taking place this Friday, neither the House nor the Senate will “gavel in”, so many legislators will be traveling home for a long weekend.  Resting up for the final push to the end.

A few straggling “policy” bills that have no state budgetary impact remain in the other committees, but by and large, almost all of the “action” has shifted to the Appropriations Committees.  Although several county policy bills are in conference committees, our major focus now is on the “formula bill” (HB1176), the “bucket bill” (HB1377), the social service funding shift (SB2206) and the budgets for DOT, DHS, DES, DOCR, OMB, and DoH.  Collectively, these bills mean hundreds of millions of dollars for counties, and as the Legislature works to balance all of our state’s needs, we will need county official support to voice our priorities.

As was previously reported, the social service funding shift was reported out of the House Human Services Committee with an amendment.  This amendment was felt by the Committee to be necessary to gain enough support to pass the House.   

The primary purpose of the original bill remains intact.  DHS would pay all county foster care, sub-adopt, therapeutic foster care, SPED, TECS & EBT issuance costs starting January 1, 2016.  This is a $19.3 million shift from county responsibility.  The bill also requires the State to fund the emergency expenditures of counties impacted by a reservation or the state hospital – not just counties with reservation land, but also those adjacent to.  This is another $3.9.   The bill also retains the commission of state and local officials to establish a funding plan for 100% of all state and federal social service costs beginning January 1, 2018.

The amendment was added to only address county levies for social services for the next two years.  As we read the amendments, a county’s combined property tax levies for social service purposes will be frozen for two years at current (2015 budget) levels, LESS the “grant savings” in mills, PLUS the mill cost of any salary and benefit increases approved by the Legislature for State employees (3%+/year).  NDACo has asked county social service directors and auditors to examine how these restrictions would (or wouldn’t) affect the county’s ability to manage their social service budget in the coming two years.  This goes to House Appropriations for their review, but the $23 million was put in the DHS Budget by the Governor, so we are very hopeful that this will make it to conference committee by the end of next week. 

The Formula Bill, addressing oil tax revenue for oil counties and one-time road funding for the (43) non-oil counties is even further along.  The Senate Appropriations Committee amended the bill and sent it to the Senate floor on Thursday.  The amendments retain the House’s 30%(local), 70%(state) split of the local share of the GPT revenue, but amendments proposed to the “bucket bill” would redirect the overflow from the final bucket, the Strategic Infrastructure Investment Fund (SIFF) so that after it contains $100 million, a portion of the excess would flow back to local government rather than into the (untouchable) Legacy Fund.  This ensures more money for local infrastructure if oil production rebounds, but doesn’t reduce state revenues further if it does not.

For the (43) non-oil counties, the Formula Bill still has $112 million to be allocated based on relative UGPTI needs study data, with some added flexibility in how the funds can be used – still only for roads, but possibly for higher county priorities.  Other Senate changes include more and more specificity in the impact grant funds, and a broader allocation of “hub city” funding.  This is expected to win rapid Senate approval on Monday, so that it can quickly go into conference committee.  The amount of revenue that this bill directs is so significant that final agreement is necessary before many other decisions can be made.

None of the major budget bills have been pushed out of Appropriations yet, but that is expected to begin early next week.  Stay tuned to this blog, and to your email, as we may need some rapid action on some of these issues.  Let us know your thoughts and questions, and if you see your Legislators at home over the weekend, give them a shout out so that they know you are thinking about them.

Time Bill Number Description Committee Room
Monday 4/6    
8:30 HB 1390 Z Driller not liable for improper disposal when contract company screws up  Senate Approp Harvest 
9:00 HB 1049 J Student loan repayment program for behavioral health professionals  Senate Approp Harvest 
9:30 HB 1415 A * $60 million plus $60 million for Fargo flood protection  Senate Approp Harvest 
Tuesday 4/7    
9:00 SB 2012 A **** Human Services budget, enhanced county reimbursement for expanded Medicaid  House Approp- Hum. Res. Sakakawea 

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