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Senator David S. Rust: Legislative Update

Article by Senator David S. Rust,

The “big” news last week dealt with the latest revenue forecast. State tax numbers were reduced by $43.6 million for this biennium.  The 2017-19 biennium looks to be $103 million less than the conservative forecast adopted by the legislature.

The oil revenue forecast for 2017-19 is based on $47 a barrel North Dakota price, 925,000 barrels per/day in the first year, and 950,000 barrels per/day in the second year.  That should bring in about $3.1 billion next biennium.  Counties and cities will receive about $31 million less than this biennium.  The Legacy Fund should pick up around $874 million.

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Even with the decrease in revenue, North Dakota has one of the best balance sheets in the nation.  The outlook is positive about workforce, jobs, and economic growth.

We are hearing more from residents about dipping into the Legacy Fund to help with the state’s budget.  I don’t think that is even a remote possibility.  According to the provisions of the measure approved by state voters, the interest from the fund is to be transferred to the General Fund on a yearly basis beginning in 2017.  That’s a significant amount of money with the intent that it be used to fund big ideas that could create jobs and improve the quality of life in North Dakota.

The principal can be accessed with a two-thirds majority vote of the legislature;  however, that should only be tapped in a disaster, not a revenue shortfall.  It should be reserved for our kids, grand kids, and beyond.  Our generation should not be so selfish as to spend a one-time harvest of minerals.

With regard to this biennium’s budget, we are committed to funding our priorities and balancing our budget without a tax increase. K-12 funding will be held at present levels, law enforcement is a priority, and nursing home cuts will be restored. At least, that’s the word we are getting from leadership.

In Senate Education we heard HB 1333 that would keep the names of applicants for the commissioner of higher education and of the presidents of public colleges and universities confidential until finalists are named.  Testimony reveals that our present openness is limiting the number of quality applicants.

The Senate killed HB 1337 that would have forced high school students to read and discuss the Federalist Papers and other constitutional concepts in order to get a credit in their government classes. Currently we require students to read the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights.

The Federalist Papers consist of 85 articles of nearly 190,000 words written by Hamilton, Madison, and Jay to convince New Yorkers to vote for our present day constitution.  While these are very worthy of study, the Senate felt that specific items dealing with curriculum are best left in the hands of school boards, teachers, and parents.

The Senate also passed HB 1283.  This bill deals with “maintaining progress toward degree completion” for recipients of the ND academic and career and technical education scholarships.  The intent of the changes is to get college and university students to graduate on time.

Currently, a high school graduate of ND can earn up to $6,000 in scholarships.  Approximately 20%of high school seniors qualify for them. Since its inception less than ten years ago 10,571 students have earned these scholarships and over $30 million have been disbursed to ND students.

A couple of bills dealing with lakebed minerals are still alive.  Legislative committees have decided that the state inappropriately claimed mineral rights that belonged to private property owners.  The bill exempts the tribes.  Right is right; no matter how much money is involved, it was wrong for the state to take these minerals away from the historic owners.  If passed, this should bring some resolution to litigation that has been ongoing and would probably drag out for years to come, costing the state millions.

This week Senate Education will hear the school funding bill.  The entire Senate will vote on repealing Sunday closing laws;  I plan to vote “no” on that one. And we should be getting closer on the medical marijuana and autism bills; both of these are involved and somewhat  controversial.

It’s a privilege to represent District 2 in the Senate.  Input from constituents is welcomed and appreciated;  the best contact is to e-mail me at drust@nd.gov.  Stay warm.

This article was written by District 2 Senator David S. Rust. Rust served in the House from 2009-2014, he is currently serving in the Senate.. Rust serves as vice-chairman of the Education Committee, he also serves on the Transportation Committee.


*Ian Grande is the Editor of the Stanley Gazette. Feel free to reach out with any comments/concerns (StanleyGazette@gmail.com)

 

 

 

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