Big ideas, big results

North Dakotans have benefited greatly over the last decade by the world class oil play in the Bakken. As revenues began rolling in from oil taxes, the Republican led legislature, along with the voters, put various funds into place to make sure that the money was both spent responsibly and saved for future generations. This careful planning has led, in part, to several funds, or “buckets,” established by the legislature to distribute spending on a priority basis, starting with the General Fund and ending with the Strategic Investment and Infrastructure Fund (SIIF). This SIIF fund has filled even when oil revenues were at their lowest.

In 2015, the legislature passed the “Surge Bill,” which distributed $1.3 billion SIIF dollars for essential infrastructure funding to communities across the state. Because of the oil boom, much of the Surge funding was allocated in western counties to deal with community impacts associated with rapid growth. It was the right thing to do for western North Dakota. But now it’s time to refocus our attention to non-oil counties.

The package rolled out last week would provide $280 million in funding for critically needed infrastructure improvements in non-oil producing cities and counties. While funding to oil and gas producing counties and hub cities will continue, the new package specifically targets these non-oil areas. This package takes an innovative approach to funding these essential state-wide infrastructure projects and is not solely based on oil price and oil production. Here’s how the new package would look:

Creates three new “buckets” above the SIIF in the state funding mechanism from oil taxes

— $115 million County/Township Infrastructure Fund

— $115 million Municipal Infrastructure Fund

— $50 million Airport Infrastructure Fund

The Municipal Fund and the County/Township Fund “buckets” fill simultaneously. The Airport Infrastructure funding would only begin once the aforementioned buckets have filled. Here’s how the funds would get allocated to communities:

County/Township Fund ($115 million):

— Excludes the 9 largest oil and gas producing counties (their previous funding stays in place)

— Provides $10,000 per township outside of the nine oil counties (capped at $15 million)

— Remaining $100 million distributed to remaining counties based on needs determined by the Upper Great Plans Transportation Institute

— Municipal Infrastructure Fund ($115 million)

— Provides $30 million in base funding to communities with a population over 1,000 to be paid out once $30 million is reached.

Remaining $85 million will be paid when filled once based on:

— A funding formula based on a previous year’s census, a 3-year average of population growth and a 3-year average of taxable valuation change

— Airport Infrastructure Fund ($50 million)

— Awards grants to be administered by the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission

Most importantly, this new package will focus on reducing the local tax burden for these non-oil counties and cities. For example, Fargo, West Fargo, and Cass County will see an additional $40 million in infrastructure dollars for roads, sewer, water and other essential infrastructure needs. A dollar through this program to Fargo, is one less the city has to tax its citizens for these projects.

We want to make sure we have a stable formula for our community leaders to plan now and in the future. We are proud of the hard work we’ve done to put this proposal in place. Having big ideas and following through on them is why we’re elected, and we will continue to do that as your leaders.

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