Article by, Jordan Kannianen – District 4 Senator
The Interim Government Finance Committee met recently in Bismarck to receive budget reports from agency heads and to continue work regarding DOT funding.
Overall tax collections are slightly higher than forecast, with current collections being 2% ($27 million) higher than the $1.48 billion forecast for the biennium to date.
The Legacy Fund balance sits at $5.5 billion. Senator Hogue from Minot recently introduced a bill to allow up to 15% of the Legacy Fund principal to be used for infrastructure loans (setting up a revolving loan fund). From my visits with city councils and others around District 4, low interest loan capital is something everyone is looking for in order to upgrade aging infrastructure in our small towns. This proposal would cap the interest rate at 1.56%, allowing updates to be made with less of a burden on property tax payers. I’m very intrigued and interested in this idea as a way to benefit current residents while still preserving the principal long-term. As it involves the principal of the Legacy Fund, it would take a 2/3 majority in both the House and the Senate to pass in the 2019 session. Please let me know your thoughts on this.
As I’ve mentioned previously, trends in higher fuel efficiencies and electric vehicles are causing a lot of states to look at their methods of funding road maintenance and construction. As fewer motor fuels taxes are collected per mile of travel, the movement around the country is to look at a tax on a “per mile” basis rather than at a “per gallon” basis, with direct user fees charged based on mileage with weight factors included. Many questions abound however, such as privacy issues and the feasibility of taxing out-of-state vehicles. Other options include simply raising motor fuels taxes and placing additional sales taxes on electric or hybrid vehicles if tax revenues don’t keep pace with road funding needs.
For the time being we’re doing fine with road funding overall, with 10% of state roads rated as being in poor condition compared to 22% a decade ago, but for the long term it’s good to look at the trends and see what needs to be done.
Have a blessed Easter with your families as we worship and remember the resurrected Savior!
*Jordan Kannianen is a Senator from District 4. Jordan serves on the Government Finance Interim Committee.