Cass County Engineer Jason Benson and NDACo Executive Director Mark Johnson testify on HB 1176 the Gross Production Tax Formula bill which icreases the share of oil taxes staying in producing areas. This provides a long-term benefit for infrastructure in the patch. The bill also includes $112 million for non-oil counties. Counties are unified in their support for the bill but did request further amendments. NDACo is asking for the distribution to be based on "needs" and for more flexiblity in terms of the criteria in how the dollars can be used.
Monday, March 30, 2015
Friday, March 27, 2015
The passage of the “Surge” funding bill is a demonstration of the wisdom of the 64th Legislative Assembly to create an outstanding investment in the future of western North Dakota and the entire state. But SB 2103’s $1.1 billion has several “strings” attached. Set forth in the bill is a list of criteria for use of the funding. The restrictions apply only to counties. While North Dakota counties are grateful for the one-time funding, they are concerned with the restrictions on how the “Surge” dollars can be used.
DOT Meeting with Counties on SB 2103
The Department of Transportation has responded quickly to the finalization of SB 2103. They have organized and held four regional meetings around the state in the last few weeks to provide an overview of the criteria for use of the funds provided through that piece of legislation. There has been overwhelming response by the counties at these meetings who have showed up with shovel-ready projects. Each county presents their project(s) to DOT officials and fellow county officials. The group then gives each project a “thumbs up” or a “thumbs down.” Here is a list of the criteria county road projects must meet:
|Walsh County presents projects for consideration at DOT meeting|
- Roadways and bridges must provide continuity and connectivity to efficiently integrate and improve major paved and unpaved corridors within the county and across county borders.
- Projects must be consistent with the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute’s estimated road and bridge investment needs for the years 2015 to 2034 and other planning studies.
- Upon completion of a major roadway construction or reconstruction project, the roadway must be posted at a legal load limit of 105,500 pounds.
- Design speed on the roadway must be at least 55 miles per hour, unless the DOT provides an exemption.
- Bridges must be designed to meet an HL 93 loading.
Probably the restriction that is most discouraging to county folks is that roads must provide connectivity and continuity. Several county engineers and county commissioners say this will prevent them from tackling their highest priority roads because they do not meet the strict interpretation of SB 2103.
Greater Flexibility Needed in Future Transportation Funding
Counties will be asking for greater flexibility as the discussion turns to the next major road funding bill, HB 1176. The bill includes a formula change for the Gross Production Tax and $112 million for non-oil counties. As it stands currently, HB 1176 includes identical language in regards to the criteria for use of funds. Unless it is amended, counties will experience the same degree of limitation.
“In the interest of balance, we would prefer HB 1176 to go out to counties with fewer restrictions. This would give counties greater flexibility to address the needs as identified by the local people,” says North Dakota Association of Counties Executive Director Mark Johnson. “Without this correction, the use of this tremendous resource will be dictated and only to the counties. Counties will be completing projects that may be further down on their priority list because of the funding restrictions.”
HB 1176 will be heard March 30th in the Senate Appropriations Committee. NDACo will be advising committee members on the importance of allowing counties greater flexibility with the road funding.
Thursday, March 26, 2015
The floor sessions continue to increase in length, as the policy committees are rapidly wrapping up their work. Several committees are done, or all but done, with their deliberations and await conference committee assignments. The sense of many seasoned legislators however, is that there are fewer policy issues for conference and the focus will be all on appropriations very shortly.
As reported earlier, this week included an excellent showing of county officials in opposition to the “mills to cents” bill (HB1005). Likewise, the County Recorders appeared in great strength to oppose a study effort to examine a “flat rate” recording fee structure. We are very hopeful on both of these issues.
The poorly defined shift of property taxes for “agritourism” buildings (SB2339) made it to the House floor on Thursday with a Do Not Pass recommendation, but the debate about the Sanford health insurance contract for NDPERS took too long and left it as the first item for debate on Friday. County officials have done a great job of communicating the problems with this proposal – but don’t stop. It will be probably debated at 12:35 tomorrow – tune in on the web for the action.
As you will see below, next week will have very few formal hearings, and most of those are Appropriations “rehearings” of policy bills that have money attached. One first hearing however is of critical importance to all counties. HB1176 proposes an adjustment to the Gross Production Tax distribution formula for oil counties and includes $112 million for non-oil counties. The message we hope to communicate is that the restrictions placed on the “Surge” funding resulted in some very important county projections becoming ineligible, and we don’t want to see those extreme limitations on the HB1176 funding.
In the property tax area, the House killed the “assessor training” bill (SB2054) although it was greatly amended when it reached the floor. The bill would have allowed township assessors to continue with 24 hours of training (rather than 180) but it gave county commissions the ability to assume local assessing in a township where it was being done improperly.
The Governor’s Property Tax Reform bill (SB2144) came out of the House Committee with a strong Do Pass recommendation this week, and will likely be on the floor next week.
On the election front, the proposal to reduce the availability of absentee and mail ballots to 21 (rather than 40) days was given a Do Not Pass recommendation by the Senate GVA committee today.
A new, optional authority for county boards (by commission resolution) to borrow up to $500,000 for up to 5 years without going to a citizen vote (HB1194) was given a Do Pass recommendation in the Senate.
As all bills with more than a $5,000 budget impact must be out of policy committees by next Monday, look for some important committee action on property tax relief, county social service funding, senior mill match, and others early next week.
Take a look, don’t hesitate to email questions, keep in contact with our legislators and stay tuned, we may need some immediate support.
|8:30||HB 1081||J Dedicated turkey license for sick youth||Senate Approp.||Harvest|
|9:00||HB 1158||R **** Remove game and fish license from auditors||Senate Approp.||Harvest|
|9:30||HCR 3004||J Study best practices for forensic death investigation||Senate Human Ser.||Red River|
|10:00||HB 1176||A **** GPT formula change - hub city, non-oil county funding||Senate Approp.||Harvest|
|11:00||HB 1409||X * Increases outdoor heritage fund to $40 million per biennium, refines purposes||Senate Approp.||Harvest|
|9:15||HB 1372||L 100K for finding agent orange victims||Senate Approp.||Harvest|
|10:00||HB 1359||S DHS to review rates for basic care facilities||Senate Approp.||Harvest|
|8:30||HB 1046||S Appropriation for traumatic brain injury registry||Senate Approp.||Harvest|
|9:00||HB 1223||C Major reduction of income tax rates||Senate Approp.||Harvest|
|9:30||HB 1059||B ** Extends state-paid property tax relief to in-lieu payments by utilities||Senate Approp.||Harvest|
|9:00||HCR 3028||J Study creating, funding emergency response centers in rural areas||Senate Pol. Subs.||Red River|
|9:45||HCR 3039||R * Study software needs of cities and counties to get property tax info online||Senate Pol. Subs.||Red River|
|9:00||HB 1217||J Can't evict renter solely because they are violence victim||Senate Pol. Subs.||Red River|
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Monday, March 23, 2015
|Grand Forks County Finance Director Debbie Nelson testifies before Senate Finance & Tax committee|
|Auditors, Treasurers & County Commissioner attend "Mills to Cents" hearing|
Grand Forks Auditor Debbie Nelson pointed out one of the 15 errors auditors and NDACo have identified in the bill. Auditor Linda Svihovec told legislators about the several changes recently implemented or in the works like the uniform tax statement and the Governor's Property Tax Reform plan. Svihovec said those improvements to the tax system need time work.
The Senate Finance & Tax committee did not take action on the bill Monday.
Thursday, March 19, 2015
The big news of the week, of course, was the release of the official state revenue projections. This information sets the boundaries for overall spending and allows the Legislature to now finish their work. It was helpful for the Legislature that the projections did not contain huge deviations from the preliminary numbers that were prepared in January.
The projections do however suggest a $419 million reduction in State General Fund revenues from what the Governor budgeted, or about a 7% drop. The biggest dollar amount decrease is in sales tax collections. This will also affect State Aid Distribution Fund allocations to counties if the projections are realized. The good news is that they are still projecting growth in sales taxes over the current biennium – so it is a reduction in the growth, not a true decrease.
The big impact is obviously to all the special funds that receive oil tax revenues. Overall, oil taxes are expected to drop from $5.9 billion this biennium to $3.9 billion in the coming one. As an example, the Strategic Infrastructure and Investment Fund (SIIF) – where all one-time road funds come from – received $1.2 billion this biennium, and is expected to get $205 million in the next. Unless oil activity recovers, one-time funding two years from now will become very challenging.
On another topic, an excellent hearing on SB2206 (Social Service Funding Shift) was held this Wednesday and the concept seemed to have fairly broad acceptance within the House Human Service Committee. However, we don’t like to leave anything to chance, so if your county has a member on that committee, it would be very helpful to shoot them a note of support. (you can who they are and find their email address at this link http://www.legis.nd.gov/assembly/64-2015/committees/house/human-services )
We feel the Governor’s Property Tax Reform proposal (SB2144) had an excellent hearing on Tuesday, and this was followed by solid county testimony against the broad and undefined expansion of the “farm building” tax exemption to “agritourism” that was proposed as SB2339.
All remaining “policy bill” hearings will take place next week, and then the focus shifts to conference committees and appropriations. So far we have few policy bills headed for conference, so our focus will be on the road funding in HB1176 & HB1012, the Human Service, DOCR, and Health Dept. Budgets (SB2012, HB1015 & HB1004) and the social service funding shift of SB2206.
|9:00||SB 2219||J Creates a statewide human trafficking commission||House Judiciary||Prairie|
|9:00||SB 2279||E Employer may not discriminate on sexual orientation||House Human Services||Fort Union|
|9:00||HB 1055||B *** Replaces mills with cents per $1000||Senate Finance and Taxation||Lewis and Clark|
|9:00||SB 2147||H Reduces from 3 to 2 one-call locates for same project before charges occur||House Industry, Business and Labor||Peace Garden|
|9:00||HB 1328||J Drone Bill - use limitations||Senate Judiciary||Fort Lincoln|
|9:30||HB 1368||J Domestic violence treatment must follow standards||Senate Judiciary||Fort Lincoln|
|9:30||HB 1116||L Changes to birth records||Senate Human Services||Red River|
|10:00||HCR 3049||S Study employment and public assistance||Senate IB&L||Roosevelt Park|
|10:00||HB 1455||L Creation of nursing staff services||Senate Human Services||Red River|
|10:00||HB 1394||J Lower penalties for marijuana||Senate Judiciary||Fort Lincoln|
|10:30||SB 2320||S Medication therapy management program for Medicaid recipients||House Approp. - Hum.Res. Div.||Sakakawea|
|10:30||HCR 3037||L Study homemade food sales and local public health policies||Senate Human Services||Red River|
|11:00||HB 1403||J Sick leave allowed for domestic violence||Senate Judiciary||Fort Lincoln|
|2:00||SB 2012||A **** Human Services budget, enhanced county reimbursement for expanded Medicaid||House Approp. - Hum.Res. Div.||Sakakawea|
|9:00||SCR 4005||S Study behavioral health and juvenile proceedings||House Judiciary||Prairie|
|9:30||SCR 4017||J Urge Congress to pass anti-trafficking legislation||House Judiciary||Prairie|
|10:00||HCR 3052||J Study higher ed policies regarding sexual assault||Senate Judiciary||Fort Lincoln|
|10:30||HB 1467||J US Border Patrol has arrest power||Senate Judiciary||Fort Lincoln|
|11:00||HCR 3012||J Study child sex offender registration||Senate Judiciary||Fort Lincoln|
|2:30||SB 2012||A **** Human Services budget, enhanced county reimbursement for expanded Medicaid||House Approp. - Hum.Res. Div.||Sakakawea|
|9:30||HB 1035||L Interim study of Health care in ND||Senate Human Services||Red River|
|10:00||HB 1378||L Study of essential health delivery||Senate Human Services||Red River|
|10:00||SB 2270||J Repeals limits on bail bondsman commissions||House Judiciary||Prairie|
|10:30||HCR 3005||L Study care of individuals with brain injuries||Senate Human Services||Red River|
|11:00||SB 2182||J States attorney or AG to prosecute unlawful practices of transient merchants||House Judiciary||Prairie|
|2:30||HB 1020||A ** Extension Budget includes UGPTI budget, local road study funding added in House||Senate Appropriations||Harvest|
|8:30||HCR 3020||B Study impact on owners from land inundated by rising Devils Lake waters||Senate Energy & Nat. Res.||Fort Lincoln|
|9:00||HB 1194||R * Political subs may borrow up to $500,000 for five years with no vote||Senate Political Subdivisions||Red River|
|9:00||SB 2141||R * Study county recorder fees||House GVA||Fort Union|
|9:00||SB 2222||R Open records requests by legislators are themselves open records||House GVA||Fort Union|
|9:00||HB 1456||Z Land board to buy excess Corps land||Senate Energy & Nat. Res.||Fort Lincoln|
|9:00||SB 2299||V Regulates campaign donation pass-thru||House GVA||Fort Union|
|9:00||HB 1395||J * Study of emergency information database - Smart911||Senate Transportation||Lewis and Clark|
|9:00||SCR 4002||R Study various definitions of political subdivision||House Political Subdivisions||Prairie|
|9:30||HB 1285||C Commerce appropriation for domestic violence shelter grants||Senate Appropriations||Harvest|
|10:00||SCR 4019||E Study state funding of health insurance for volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel||House Political Subdivisions||Prairie|
|10:00||HB 1459||B Voters must authorize building authority construction project||Senate Political Subdivisions||Red River|
|10:15||HB 1246||E State employee compensation studies must count 50% of benefits||Senate GVA||Missouri River|
|10:30||HB 1068||Z Industrial commission cannot use information outside of its Jurisdiction||Senate Energy & Nat. Res.||Fort Lincoln|
|2:15||HB 1352||B Elimination of specials for irrigation from Garrison diversion||Senate Energy & Nat. Res.||Fort Lincoln|
|2:30||SB 2346||E Changes VSO training certification requirements||House GVA||Fort Union|
|4:00||HB 1113||Z C Felony for radioactive disposal non-compliance and new rules||Senate Energy & Nat. Res.||Fort Lincoln|
|8:30||SB 2022||E * NDPERS budget, retirement and health plan||House Approp. - Gov. Ops Div.||Medora|
|9:00||HB 1415||A * $60 million plus $60 million for Fargo flood protection||Senate Energy & Nat. Res.||Fort Lincoln|
|9:00||HB 1444||E State employment contract provisions||Senate Political Subdivisions||Red River|
|9:15||HCR 3006||J Study use of state resources for youth adjudicated by tribal courts||Senate GVA||Missouri River|
|9:30||HB 1213||E * Appointee to local board cannot be felon (15 year look back), tax delinquency amended out||Senate Political Subdivisions||Red River|
|10:15||HCR 3057||V Study election administration||Senate GVA||Missouri River|
|11:00||HB 1114||Z New penalties for solid waste disposal||Senate Energy & Nat. Res.||Fort Lincoln|
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