Dem-NPL: Legislature must take action to meet “moral obligation” to western North Dakota
Group sets forth plan to restore over $146 million in cuts to funding for roads, hospitals and human services in oil impacted communities
(BISMARCK, N.D.) – Dem-NPL legislative leaders today unveiled a plan aimed at restoring funding for roads, hospitals, and human services in oil-impacted communities originally contained in HB 1358. The legislators’ actions come on the heels of the Senate GOP majority’s vote last week to cut several hundred million from the bipartisan bill, which was introduced to address oil impacts in western North Dakota and fund infrastructure needs throughout the state.
“We have a moral obligation to stand by western North Dakota and the communities who are literally paying the price for our prosperity,” said Senator Mac Schneider, D-Grand Forks. “There seemed to be bipartisan agreement on that point at the beginning of the session, but it has lately become clear my friends in the majority need a reminder that addressing oil impacts should be our top priority this session. Restoring the funding reductions to HB 1358 is critically important in this effort. We will make sure these priorities get an up or down vote in the Senate.”
Friday, April 5th, the Senate approved over $300 million in cuts to HB 1358. These cuts were debated heavily on the Senate floor and have been met with strong disapproval by community leaders in oil producing counties and across the state. Of that $300 million cut from the bill, $146 million would have directly funded road repair, supported critical access hospitals, and met human service needs in western North Dakota.
Dem-NPL legislators will proceed with a three-part plan to restore the funding reductions in HB 1358.
First, Senator Connie Triplett, D-Grand Forks, will offer a broad floor amendment to restore the entirety of the cuts made to HB 1358 by the GOP majority in the Senate last Friday. If that amendment fails, Senator Jim Dotzenrod, D-Wyndmere, will move to amend HB 1358 on the floor to restore the $130 million in reductions to road funding for oil-impacted counties. Finally, Senator John Warner, D-Ryder, will offer a floor amendment to the Department of Human Services budget, HB 1012, which would restore $10 million in grants to critical access hospitals and $6 million in grants to nursing homes, basic care facilities and providers serving individuals with developmental disabilities.
Dem-NPL legislators feel strongly that these priorities merit individual attention and an up or down vote in the full Senate.
“This legislature is failing to address the human aspect of North Dakota’s oil boom as evidenced by the cuts to critical access hospitals and nursing homes,” Senator Warner said. “However, we still have time to restore this funding and address the impacts on our communities.”
“I believe there is an opportunity for bipartisan support when it comes to restoring the road money for oil-impacted counties,” Senator Dotzenrod said. “Addressing the challenges that have come with the oil boom isn’t a Democratic or Republican issue. It’s a helping your neighbor issue.”
Restoring the funding reductions to western North Dakota carries virtually the same price tag as the $140 million in corporate income tax reductions contained in the House-passed version of HB 1250. As Dem-NPL legislators have noted throughout the session, 82% of the corporate income tax was paid by out-of-state corporations according to the most recent data available.
Representative Kenton Onstad spoke on the importance of people coming before these cuts to the corporate income tax.
“We need to face up to the truth: Western North Dakota is in a crisis and it is disheartening to hear about long-time residents who now want to move out because their quality of life has been compromised,” said Onstad. “We must take care of our people first. Fortunately we can do that and still provide deeper and sustainable property tax relief, and those two priorities should be our remaining focus this session.”