Minot legislators say they will have to be vigilant to protect Minot's interests in the upcoming legislative session, although they believe proposals in the governor's budget will get things off to a good start.
The budget includes $60 million for property acquisition and flood protection in the Souris River Basin, along with continuation of a homeowners' loan fund for flood rebuilding, an enhanced incentive fund to support low-income housing and extra money for fast-growing schools.
Legislators want to take a closer look at the flood protection money, which some view as low.
"It's a lot of money, but in the grand scheme of things, when you talk about what it is going to take for flood protection in the Souris River Valley, it's not a very large number," Rep. Robert Frantsvog, R-Minot, said. "This is a good first step. It allows for some dialogue to take place."
Frantsvog said flood protection will take years to design and build so it will require a series of appropriations over a number of bienniums, along with federal participation.
Rep. Andrew Maragos, R-Minot, said the budget provides a good road map.
"There's going to be some rearranging of the chairs a little bit, but I don't think the bottom line is going to change a lot," Maragos said. "It has some ambitious aspects to it, with justification. It does leave Minot's delegation some hard work to do to make sure that we see that Minot gets the resources it needs."
Rep. Dan Ruby, R-Minot, also indicated that local legislators have some work to do if Minot is to benefit from the funding programs proposed by the governor.
"I was pleased to see that he didn't try to spend every dollar," he said. "I was pleased that he left dollars on the table for the legislators to work on priorities."
Sen. Karen Krebsbach said she plans to re-introduce legislation passed over during the special session to provide a sales-tax break on flood-recovery expenses. She expects similar legislation proposing an income-tax break for flood survivors.
"Basically, Minot is going to come out OK," she said. "We have a strong story to tell this time, and I think we are in a better shape to present that story to people who make the decisions."
Sen. Oley Larsen, R-Minot, said he is counting on a united front from Minot and its legislative delegation to ensure that the session goes well.
"What I want to do is continue listening to our leaders in Minot and see what the needs are and really bring forth a team effort," he said.
One budget line that legislators are interested in learning more about is the $60 million for oil-impacted airports, which could aid expansion plans at the Minot airport. Legislators have questions about how Minot will be treated overall when it comes to oil-impact money because Ward County is feeling the effects of oil development without getting much of the development.
Sen. David Hogue, R-Minot, has some concern with lifting the cap on the share of oil revenue that producing counties can receive without knowing what effect that might have on counties such as Ward. However, he believes the governor's funding support for child care is appropriate.
"Everybody in Minot understands that you have to have affordable housing and child care to get entry-level people into our community," Hogue said.
Rep. Matt Klein, R-Minot, said the governor's spending level was a little higher than what he had in mind, but overall, the projections for being able to fund the budget seem to be solid.
"Things look good for North Dakota. It seems like things are moving in the right direction," he said.
Rep. Larry Bellew, R-Minot, wants more detail on the capital projects in higher education before he can support them, while Sen. Randy Burckhard, R-Minot, said legislators will want to take a close look at the 171-employee increase. Burckhard also hopes the Legislature looks at permanent reform of the property tax rather than just another two-year fix.
Rep. Scott Louser, R-Minot, said he was happy to see a property-tax reduction proposal in the budget.
"But there are going to be many more proposals some coming from me, in fact that are probably going to be more aggressive," he said.
Ruby said he has some concern about the property-tax relief all coming in reduction of the school levy.
"That doesn't help the taxpayers if it doesn't address some of the costs on cities and counties. They seem to be almost replacing it as fast as they are reducing it on the school portion," he said.
"Overall the budget is pretty bold," Bellew added. "I am concerned about the sustainability of it. We are spending a lot of money. I am not sure that we are giving (back to) the taxpayers enough of their money.
Rep. Roscoe Streyle, R-Minot, agreed the budget may be a little lean on tax relief. But he is happy with the infrastructure spending.
"That's where most of the money should be going," he said.
Rep. Roger Brabandt said the governor's inclusion of money for infrastructure and flood protection in the budget draft will be good for Minot as legislators look at appropriating funds.
"I think it will be a good session for Minot. It will be a good session for everyone," he said.