Governor signs bipartisan legislation to fund essential infrastructure
Gov. Doug Burgum signed legislation on Wednesday that will provide $250 million to help cities, counties and townships in non-oil producing counties pay for infrastructure needs, urging local leaders to invest the dollars in existing infrastructure areas to limit the growth of property taxes and create healthy, vibrant communities.
Legislative leaders, bill sponsors and stakeholders joined Burgum for the signing of House Bill 1066. The bipartisan bill passed with broad support, 80-12 in the House and 46-0 in the Senate.
The bill changes the distribution of oil and gas tax revenues, creating new “buckets” to set aside revenue for counties, cities and townships in non-oil producing areas. Starting in the 2021-23 biennium, the bill will direct $115 million to cities, $115 million to counties and townships, and $20 million for an airport infrastructure fund.
“One of the pillars of our Main Street Initiative is smart, efficient infrastructure, and we know communities across North Dakota have significant infrastructure needs. We also support local control, and this bill gives communities enormous latitude to use this bounty of oil tax revenues. If used wisely, these grant dollars represent a golden opportunity to improve the economics of cities, limit the growth of property taxes and create healthy, vibrant communities, enhancing the quality of life for all North Dakotans,” Burgum said.
The law requires that grant dollars be used for essential infrastructure projects, including water and wastewater treatment plants; sewer and water lines, including lift stations and pumping systems; water storage systems, including dams, water tanks and water towers; storm water infrastructure, including curb and gutter; road and bridge infrastructure; electricity and natural gas transmission infrastructure; airport infrastructure; and communications infrastructure.
In addition to allocating oil tax revenues to non-oil producing areas, the law also preserves allocations for oil-producing areas and removes the sunset on the “hub city” designation that directs additional oil tax revenue to Dickinson, Minot and Williston.
Burgum joins Labor Secretary Acosta, highlights efforts to address workforce shortage
Gov. Burgum welcomed U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta to North Dakota on Thursday, highlighting efforts to address the state’s workforce shortage and discussing other topics. Acosta was making his first visit to North Dakota as Labor Secretary at the invitation of U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D.
During a roundtable discussion at North Dakota State College of Science in Fargo, Burgum noted Job Service North Dakota has over 14,000 online job openings and the actual number of available jobs is likely twice that amount.
“Our workforce shortage is the No. 1 barrier to economic growth in North Dakota, and we’re grateful to Secretary Acosta for taking the time to visit our state and hear first-hand about our challenges and the steps we’re pursuing to address them through the Workforce Development Council, legislation and other measures,” Burgum said.
Burgum revitalized the Workforce Development Council and commissioned a statewide employer survey to identify barriers to filling job openings. As a result, the council developed an extensive report with more than 30 recommendations, several of which were proposed in the governor’s executive budget recommendation for 2019-2021, including $30 million for career academies to help move youth into the workforce and lower the cost of college and exempting military retirement pay to make North Dakota a more military-friendly state. The governor also has supported expanding reciprocity with other states for professional licenses to streamline transitioning into the workforce.
In addition to the meeting on workforce at NDSCS in Fargo, Burgum joined Acosta for a roundtable discussion on associated health plans and met with the Secretary and tribal college presidents at United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck to discuss technical training at tribal colleges and Indian Country’s current and future workforce needs.
Governor testifies at field oversight hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs
Gov. Burgum delivered testimony Wednesday during a field oversight hearing of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. Sen. John Hoeven, who is chairman of the committee, invited Burgum to speak on a panel with Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem. Burgum's testimony was focused on three central issues:
- the issues law enforcement officers face in North Dakota due to a lack of major resources, staffing and training facilities;
- the epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous peoples; and
- the repeal of outdated laws regarding criminal jurisdiction in Indian Country.
"By establishing trusting relationships, sharing resources and identifying strengths and needs across federal, state, local and tribal jurisdictions, we can build safe communities, ensure stable and highly effective law enforcement and promote joint efforts to enhance Tribal-State mutual aid agreements and drug task forces," Burgum said.
Chairwoman Myra Pearson of the Spirit Lake Nation and Chairman Mike Faith of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe also delivered testimony, along with representatives from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Drug Enforcement Agency. Also in attendance were Sen. Kevin Cramer and Rep. Kelly Armstrong.
First Lady speaks at prevention and recovery events in western N.D.
First Lady Kathryn Burgum delivered a keynote address at A Night for Prevention at Watford City High School, hosted by the McKenzie County Community Coalition.
Students spoke on panel discussions and presented awards to those who have taken the lead on preventing underage consumption of alcohol. Lt. Gov. Sanford also attended, as well as representatives of the Department of Human Services and the North Dakota Highway Patrol.
The First Lady also spoke at the annual St. Patrick's Day celebration at Hope's Landing sober living facility in Dickinson. The home serves women recovering from the disease of addiction by providing a peer support system and space free from drugs and alcohol.
Sanford meets with Consul-General of Japan
This week, Lt. Gov. Sanford met with Naoki Ito, who serves as the Consul-General of Japan in Chicago. With a population of more than 125 million people, Japan represents a tremendous trade opportunity for North Dakota, especially in the energy and agriculture sectors.
North Dakota's exports increased by more than $1 billion in 2018, a rise reflective of the state's businesses expanding their markets and implementing new innovations to make their organizations more profitable. As the state's global influence expands, direct relations with top trading partners become increasingly important.
Gov. Burgum also met with Consul-General Ito at the National Governors Association meeting in Washington, D.C., last month.
2019 Governor's Awards for the Arts presented at Heritage Center
In partnership with the North Dakota Council on the Arts, Gov. Burgum hosted the 2019 Governor's Awards for the Arts on Tuesday at the Heritage Center in Bismarck.
The awards were established in 1977 as a way of recognizing individuals and organizations that have made outstanding contributions to the arts throughout the state. Recipients are chosen for their efforts to expand arts opportunities to new audiences, create an appreciation for North Dakota’s cultural heritage and make the arts more central to education and an integral part of community life.
This year's award recipients were:
- Arts in Education: Annette Hovey (New Rockford)
- Arts Organization: Jamestown Fine Arts Association (Jamestown)
- Cultural Treasure: John Gross (Napoleon)
- Individual Achievement: David Borlaug (Bismarck) and Jessie Veeder (Watford City)
- Private Business: Office Sign Co. (Fargo)
The event was part of the NDCA's Statewide Arts Convening, which brought together hundreds of artists and other participants in Bismarck to discuss how to best communicate in creative endeavors.
National Guard command teams gather in Bismarck
The North Dakota National Guard hosted its Joint Leaders Conference in Bismarck this week, with Army Guard and Air Guard command teams convening to discuss the topics surrounding the theme, "Leadership in a Complex Environment."
Gov. Burgum's remarks to the conference were based on the purpose statement developed by his administration, which closely corresponds with the work of the Guard: to Empower People, Improve Lives and Inspire Success. Burgum stressed the importance of creating an environment in which every team member is empowered to solve problems.
Gen. Joseph Lengyel, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, was among the speakers who addressed the group, along with Col. Kenneth Lozzano, Diversity Director for the Air National Guard, and a panel of North Dakota military and civilian communications specialists.
Burgum attends signing of new diversion agreement, lauds MnDNR’s request to enable construction
Gov. Burgum on Tuesday joined local, state and federal leaders for the signing of a new Project Partnership Agreement for the Fargo-Moorhead Area Diversion Project, while also applauding the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for asking a judge to allow construction to begin on the flood control project in accordance with the DNR’s permit requirements.
The new Project Partnership Agreement reflects the direction given earlier this month by Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, R.D. James, for the Army Corps of Engineers to increase federal participation in the diversion project by $300 million, from $450 million to $750 million. James also approved the renegotiation of the PPA for comprehensive flood protection in the Red River Valley.
The governor also participated in a discussion about the metro area’s preparations in anticipation of significant spring flooding.
“Between the Army Corps’ increased participation and the DNR’s request, this project continues to gain momentum in recognition of the significant value it will provide both states in terms of protecting human life, the F-M area’s thriving economy and billions of dollars in property value,” Burgum said. “The current threat of another significant flood impacting the metro area underscores the need to build this comprehensive flood protection project as soon as possible. We’re grateful for the actions by Assistant Secretary James, Sen. Hoeven, the F-M Diversion Authority, and all other local, state and federal officials working hard to see this vitally important project to completion.”
The diversion project will protect nearly 95 percent of Cass County’s estimated 178,000 residents, nearly 50,000 K-12 and college students, $20 billion in property and the metro area’s thriving economy, Burgum noted. Cass County accounted for 16 percent, or $2.8 billion, of North Dakota’s taxable sales and purchases in 2017.