Lee: Significant bills relate to tax relief, education
The 2013 North Dakota legislative session has ended with many good outcomes for our citizens. Although space will not permit discussing all significant bills, the following list includes several of the issues.-
-$1.1 billion of tax relief is being put in place, $866 million of property taxes and $250 million in personal and corporate income taxes.
--K-12 education is receiving $1.6 billion in funding, an $800 million increase from last biennium. Additional funding for rapidly growing school districts like West Fargo's is also included, as well as money for school security. Higher education also received increased funding.
--Over 2.3 billion is designated for oil country to assist with roads and bridges, hospitals and emergency services, law enforcement, water systems, and more.
--$900 million was approved for the Transportation budget, including first-ever money for cities, counties, and townships to repair roads, as well as increases for state highways. Roads throughout the state, not just in oil country, needed this assistance for maintenance.
--$515 million goes to water projects, including the Fargo area flood control project which will receive the first $138 million this year of a total of $450 million. Devils Lake, Lisbon, Valley City, and other areas will receive flood control funding, as well as projects delivering water to northwest and southwest North Dakota.
Much of the appropriated funding is for one-time spending, especially for building projects which are much needed. As someone stated, "When there is a good crop and the farmer has money, he repairs the roof on the barn." These investments are being done with no borrowing. It is important to take care of buildings and infrastructure that is in disrepair. One place that will be improved is the International Peace Garden, that lovely spot on the US/Canadian border. There are several structures which need significant repair, including the landmark bell tower which now cannot be approached by visitors because of its structural problems. Manitoba will also contribute to the funding, and the Peace Gardens will be on its way to looking its best again.
Human services received $2.7 billion, including increased funding for nursing homes, veterans, and children's programs.
--Medicaid expansion will provide health coverage for over 20,000 low-income citizens who have not previously had coverage and who are, oddly enough, not covered by ObamaCare. The expansion also will help employers who are subject to up to $3000/employee penalties, if they have more than 50 employees and do not provide health coverage. It also will help people who are mandated to have coverage by ObamaCare and will otherwise be subject to increasing penalties.
--Child care is a critical issue throughout North Dakota, and $41million is provided for child care and pre-kindergarten education.
--Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) includes conditions affecting many ND families. A new program to provide services and education is funded.--Funding for ambulance and other emergency services, trauma system, and heart attack and stroke education and treatment was enhanced.
--Vulnerable adults who are physically and/or financially abused or neglected will receive home/community services and guardianships. Low-income people who may have dementia and have no family to take care of their affairs will be greatly helped by this.--Senior programs of various types are funded, including meals and programs to assist people to remain in their own homes.
DUI laws were strengthened to help address everyone's concerns about driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Significant penalties are in place for offenses.
A new animal cruelty law provides strong penalties along with definitions for neglect, abandonment, and cruelty to animals.
There are many more bills that will interest our neighbors, but it is important to know that the budget is sound, investing in important areas, cutting taxes, and saving for the future. North Dakota is fortunate to have a strong economy, not only from oil activity, but from agriculture, tourism, health care, education, and business.
Your District 13 legislators are always interested in your comments and questions. You may contact: Senator Judy Lee, firstname.lastname@example.org, 282-6512; Rep. Alon Wieland, email@example.com, 282-9470; Rep. Kim Koppelman, firstname.lastname@example.org, 282-9267.
Sen. Judy Lee represents District 13.