It is difficult to write about the work the NDSGA does for the long term while our producers face the immediacy of terrible harvest conditions and prices, but these are a few things that Scott and I have worked this week: We were honored by the ND Association of General Contractors when asked to be the voice of Agriculture for the Tuesday media rollout (in both Fargo and Bismarck) of a national firm’s study of ND roads and bridges. Called the TRIP study, it shows a $2.5 billion shortfall in funding for the next 5 years. This is essentially what our DOT and Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute out of NDSU show as well and we welcomed the study as another reminder to our state that we need to find a way to keep our roads and bridges from falling further into disrepair.
Scott covered the last meeting of the interim Tax committee and has a lot of irons in the fire when it comes to topics being brought up as our next Legislative session starts in January. I went to the last meeting of the Energy Development and Transmission committee meeting where Senator Wardner rolled out his latest version of his Prairie Dog initiative. This is a multi-biennium look at how to fund non-oil counties at a sustainable level while keeping oil country whole. It will be undergoing many changes and I will keep you up to snuff on it during the session.
I also caught the Water Coalition meeting where the various cities and water entities such as Garrison Diversion, Rural Water, Water Districts and various water supply organizations tried to decide if they were a true coalition that could pare down their budgets enough so that the total dollars that the State Water Commission has can be distributed amongst them in agreeable portions. Or, will these many different projects end up trying to use whatever political pull they have during the Session to gain favor, leaving the other groups with smaller slices of the money pie?
Budgets are being cut by order of the Governor with the shortfall of 6 or 7 hundred million dollars to overcome. Fortunately, state revenues are coming in one hundred million dollars or so higher than expected due to higher oil prices. Also, I would say that the ideas being floated to tap the Legacy Fund for loans so that we can invest that money in our own state seems to have solid footing and gives these Water projects hope to move ahead at a faster pace.