This is the week leading up to Easter and the Capitol natives are getting restless. It’s horse to the barn kind of stuff about wanting to go home. Everyone wants to know when we are getting out and no one knows. But enough of that and on to the budgets that matter to growers around our state.
The DOT budget (2012) had their first conference committee this morning and there are several areas for discussion and compromise including the study for how we are going to improve funding for our roads and highways. We are falling seriously behind and here are a few numbers; in the 2009-11 biennium, our total funding for state, county, township and urban areas was $634.9 million and the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute Needs Assessment was $1,078.1 billion. For this biennium (17-19), the total funding is about $764.9 million and the UGPTI identified needs are $2,544.4 billion. So how do we possibly fund such deteriorating conditions? A penny on the gas tax is a little over $4 million in revenue. That is not doing much. Granted, this figure includes all roads and bridges for the state, county, township and urban areas. But funding only 30 percent of our depreciation? As NDSGA Legislative Director Scott Rising says, “How long can you stay in business at that rate?”
For the budget concerning Career and Technical Education (2019), remove one million dollars. Why do we care? We need mechanics for Agriculture. The two houses will tousle over that.
Community service grants deal with restorative justice, which in this case means parole and juvenile delinquent issues. In the first conference committee on Monday, a senator told how he had run into a woman in her thirties who had been helped by the program 15 years ago. She told him that without that intervention and treatment she would still be in prison. The senator mentioned that at $40,000 annual cost for a prisoner, it seemed to be more than worthwhile. The Senate came in with $500,000 for the program; the House is at $200,000. Today, Tuesday, the Senate asked if they would accept $300,000 and the House said no. It was about a 90 second meeting and the next is scheduled for Thursday.
The Commerce budget, 2018, was heard today. That includes funding for APUC (Agricultural Product Utilization Commission) which is found within the Commerce budget. The APUC budget from general funds has been zeroed out and is in danger of being marginalized.