DEM-NPL Leaders Find Areas of Agreement, Room for Improvement in 2015 Budget

DEM-NPL Leaders Find Areas of Agreement, Room for Improvement in 2015 Budget

(BISMARCK, ND) — In response to Governor Jack Dalrymple’s announcement of the 2015 executive budget address this morning, House Dem-NPL Leader Kenton Onstad (D-Parshall), Assistant House Dem-NPL Leader Corey Mock (D-Grand Forks), Senate Dem-NPL Leader Mac Schneider (D-Grand Forks), and Assistant House Dem-NPL Leader Joan Heckaman (D-New Rockford) issued the following statement:

“With North Dakota’s economic good fortune, we have the ability to address immediate needs and double-down on our opportunities,” the Dem-NPL legislative leaders said. “The executive budget identifies priorities that we have long supported, but also falls short in key areas. The bottom line is that more can be done to address our challenges and live up to North Dakota’s unlimited potential.”

The Dem-NPL legislative leadership identified the following areas of shared priorities in the executive budget:

PROVIDES CATCH-UP FUNDING FOR WESTERN NORTH DAKOTA: The governor’s budget allocates over $800 million in catch-up funding for western North Dakota that Dem-NPL legislators pushed to appropriate during the 2013 legislative session through an increased share of the oil production tax for western North Dakota. Dem-NPL legislators also called for a special session last spring to provide this needed funding to oil impacted communities.

ADOPTS DEM-NPL PRIORITY OF INCREASING SHARE OF OIL PRODUCTION TAX GOING TO OIL IMPACTED COMMUNITIES: The executive budget proposes that oil impacted communities’ share of the oil production tax be increased to 60%. Dem-NPL legislators proposed a similar initiative last session.

TAKES A STEP FORWARD ON BEHAVIORAL HEALTH NEEDS: Dem-NPL legislators have long pushed for increased attention to behavioral health needs across the state. The governor’s budget shares Dem-NPL legislators’ priority of increasing access to mental health services in North Dakota.

Areas in need of improvement in the executive budget include the following:

PROVIDING DEEPER TAX RELIEF TO HOMEOWNERS AND WORKING NORTH DAKOTANS: Dem-NPL legislators will introduce legislation to 1) exempt the first $100,000 of a primary residence’s value from taxation and provide a property tax credit to those who rent their homes; 2) exclude the first $50,000 of an individual’s earned income from taxation; and 3) eliminate the sales tax on clothing.

HOLDING THE LINE ON TUITION: The executive budget does not hold tuition level at our four year institutions, resulting in increased debt loads for North Dakota college students. With Minnesota freezing tuition for several years, North Dakota should follow suit to stay competitive and promote college affordability.

PRE-KINDERGARTEN INITIATIVE SHOULD BE UNIVERSAL: While the executive budget does provide $6 million in funding for pre-kindergarten education, this funding falls far short of extending this critical learning opportunity to all four year olds in North Dakota. Dem-NPL legislators will push for universal pre-kindergarten in North Dakota.

INCREASE SUPPORT FOR VICTIMS OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING: The executive budget appropriately increases resources to law enforcement, but leaves out funding to assist victims of human trafficking — a necessary prerequisite if human traffickers are to be successfully prosecuted. Dem-NPL legislators will advocate for passage of a “safe harbor” law that provides assistance to victims of this heinous crime.


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