Since I last wrote to you, I have worked a couple of days each in October (Dickinson tour) and November (Minot). Both were efforts to track the Interim Legislative committee known as Energy Development and Transmission (EDTC). Chaired by Senator Wardner of Dickinson, this is the most active of all interim Committees as it has met nearly every month and often for two days at a time.
Here is what the committee is about as I, from notes, paraphrase the Chairman explaining it to those assembled in Minot: “This committee is looking for arguments to bring to the Legislature so as to continue Hub City funding.” The Hub cities of Dickinson, Williston and Minot, along with the Legislature are concerned about stranded debt from the tremendous buildout to deal with the sudden population increase. He went on to say that it would not be proper to leave it up to property tax and that because the entire state benefits (at the very least from funds which have gone to improved roads and water projects since the boom began, as well as hundreds of millions in the Common Schools Trust Fund and billions in the Legacy Fund), the state should be willing to continue to help the oil patch through the Hub City Formula. That is why the EDTC goes each interim to hear reports from the officials from each city and to tour facilities/infrastructure of every sort from sewage lagoons and pump stations to schools, jails, courthouses, fire, police, street departments, airports and the many oil industry related businesses to name a few.
What is the formula? “…a city with a population of 12,500 or more in the last…federal census, which has more than 2 percent of its …employment engaged in the mining industry (recovering oil is considered mining)…according to Job Service ND . They get their funds from the oil and gas production tax which is in lieu of property taxes on oil and gas producing properties. Mandan lost its Hub City status last session and Minot, while on the eastern fringe of the Bakken, was eager to show the committee how much the oil and gas industry takes part in its economy. Officially, its employment figures were over 6 percent, but the numbers are much higher unofficially and we toured Hess, Baker Hughes (a GE subsidiary) as well as other world class players such as Cameron, now a Schlumberger subsidiary, Enbridge and others. Minot jumped in population from around 30,000 in 2007 to nearly 50,000 today.
NDSGA continues to keep in contact with policy makers who must determine where the money goes, so Scott Rising is kept busy following several issues whereas I just attended the annual Water Users meeting in Bismarck December 6 and 7. One of the more interesting days was spent at the Irrigation Workshop, where water quality, soil health and farming practices were discussed. Also updates were given on the RRV Water Supply Project and the Fargo Diversion Project as well as a report from every Rural Water and large water project in the state. I also attended the annual Water Board education piece dictated by the Legislature this last session. In December I will catch the Natural Resources and after that the Agriculture meetings and give you a report.