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Bonding Bills evolving

Published: Jan. 29, 2021 at 5:34 PM CST
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - The talk of the legislature is the budget. Before January, lawmakers said it was going to be a struggle, and they would need to find other revenue sources.

Both parties introduced large infrastructure bonding bills, but that money has to come from somewhere.

As the state recovers from an economic slowdown, legislators have turned to the Legacy fund to tackle infrastructure needs. But now there’s Legacy Fund fever, and more projects are seeking its dollars.

The Legacy Fund was intended for the state, cities and counties to fund roads, bridges and other construction needs.

In the face of the economic slowdown, Democrats introduced a $1 billion infrastructure bonding bill last summer.

Now, it’s doubled to $2 billion.

“We accomplished one purpose since the summer, and that now the Republicans are talking about a bonding bill, which is positive, and now we need to get them to do the proper amount,” Sen. Tim Mathern, D-Fargo, said.

Republicans are also changing the size of their bonding bill, but theirs is decreasing.

What was a $1.1 billion plan a month ago, has downsized to $800 million and focuses more on water projects than roads or bridges.

The smaller amount is tied to disagreements within the party and public feedback.

“A lot of people say we’re obligating future generations. No. When we’ve got a dedicated stream of revenue that’s gonna take care of it in the Legacy earning, which is already there, we’re not,” Senate Majority Leader Rick Wardner said.

While parties discuss infrastructure, individual lawmakers are proposing their own projects using Legacy Fund dollars, including a nearly $90 million project to give all public school students free lunches.

Wardner said the money can be used however the legislature wants, but added that certain bills can be covered with different revenue sources.

Including the Prairie Dog Fund, which collects oil and gas tax revenues also intended for infrastructure needs.

Some of these bills include money from the recently formed Prairie Dog Fund as well. However, the slowdown in the oil fields have some lawmakers worried those funds won’t be available.

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