ByRep. Wesley R. Belter
District 22 Legislative Forums have been scheduled for February 16, and March 16 at the Casselton City Hall from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Senator Lee, Representative Silbernagel, and I will also participate with legislators from other districts in forums at the West Fargo City Hall on March 9, and April 6.
The legislature finished its fourth week of work. The House Finance and Tax Committee which I chair has over sixth bills. Most of the bills are tax reductions from sales, income, and property tax. The Governor has proposed a one hundred and twenty five million dollar reduction in personal and corporate tax. I believe the bill coming out of the tax committee will have a much larger reduction. There was a bill to reduce the motor fuel tax by one half. That bill received a Do Not pass out of committee. A large portion of the fuel tax is paid by out of state travelers and the trucking industry, and consequently it was the view of the tax committee that this tax should not be reduced.
The two major issues of this session will be the governor’s plan for education equity and property tax reduction. The bill will reduce the amount of mills a district can levy to 50 mills with an additional 22 mills that can be levied if approved by the district. The cost of this bill for the property tax portion will be seven hundred and fourteen million dollars. The second major issue will be the amount of aid for oil impact in western North Dakota as well as infrastructure needs in the rest of the state. There is no debate on the need to assist western oil counties and cities. The issue is how much aid is needed and how it can be dispersed equitably.
On Friday SB 2176 was passed and sent to the governor for his signature. The bill will provide seven hundred twenty million dollars for road construction this year. It provides money for the oil producing counties and fifteen thousand dollars for each township in none oil producing counties. The local township will also get their regular allocation which will amount to about seven thousand dollars. This payment in excess of twenty thousand dollars will be of great assistance to our local townships. Ordinarily this money would not go out till July, but this money will be sent out early so that it can be used for this construction season. The bill also provides sixty four million dollars to non-oil cities and counties.
Most committees will finish hearings this week or the week of February 11th. Legislative activities will then concentrate on floor action by the full House and Senate. March 1st is the dead line for both the senate and house to finish the first half of the session. The legislative crossover break where the legislature is out of session will be March fourth, and fifth.