Lawmakers work to fund priorities while balancing budget

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BISMARCK, N.D. - The legislative session is three-quarters of the way through its 80 days allowed by law, and only 10 days from its self-imposed 70 day limit.

Now comes crunch time, where the money takes center stage.

The oil-boom brought economic prosperity the likes of which North Dakota hadn't seen before.

Now, in a post-boom economy, lawmakers have tough decisions to make fund priorities.

After their proposed $28 million budget for behavioral services was slashed to $200,000, Democrats are painting a bleak picture.

"There will be more suicides, more deaths from opioid and meth use and our corrections and homeless facilities will be stacked," said ​Sen. Tim Mathern, D-Fargo.

"You could always spend your way, a lot more money, but I've found around here you can't spend your way to success. You need trained individuals, you need plans that work, and then you can put some money behind it," said Rep. Al Carlson, R-Fargo.

With the boom over, Democrats argue it's time to look at some of the tax breaks given to both the oil industry and other corporations.

"Now that commodity prices are down and our sales tax collections are forty percent off of the original forecast, we should be in an environment of shared sacrifice, which is a term we're hearing quite often in this session as we're making these cuts," said Sen. Jim Dotzenrod, D-Wyndmere.

"Do we want investment in this state? Of course we do, and we have to compete with them. If we start raising the taxes, we're not going to be able to compete with those companies to bring those investments here," said Sen. Rich Warnder, R-Dickinson.

Wardner says property tax relief hasn't been touched, but says keeping it that way is going to be tough.

The budget is anywhere from 650 million dollars away from being balanced to 60 million dollars, depending on who you ask.

Democrats aren't counting the use of reserve funds to fill in gaps, while Carlson said, "They have no idea."