North Dakota Democrats unveil budget proposal for special session

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BISMARCK, N.D. - Governor Jack Dalrymple is calling legislators back to Bismarck for a special session starting August 2 to deal with the state's budget crunch. North Dakota is projected to be more than $300 million in the red. That's even after more than 4 percent budget cuts across the board earlier this year.

State Democrats are already announcing their plan to deal with the issues.

They're suggesting preserving funding for the Department of Human Services, the Department of Corrections and property tax relief.

The plan also includes using the state's rainy day fund, the Strategic Investments and Improvements Fund and profits from the Bank of North Dakota to pay for the shortfall.

The plan's highlights, from a press release, are:

• Averts additional cuts to the Department of Human Services and Department of Corrections: In an apparent area of agreement with the Governor and legislative majority, the Dem-NPL proposal holds these two agencies harmless from the expected forthcoming 2.5% allotment.
• Leaves approximately 87% of the automatic budget cuts in place: In addition to holding DHS and DoC harmless from future cuts, the Dem-NPL plan continues a total of approximately $52 million in funding appropriated by the 2015 Legislature. Assuming an additional round of automatic budget cuts of 2.5%, this amount represents just over 13% of the total budget reductions would otherwise go into effect as part of the allotment process.
• Keeps promises on property tax relief: Maintains $16.4 million in appropriations to fund the entirety of popular 12% property tax credit while leaving the Tax Relief Sustainability Fund untouched to preserve property tax relief during the 2017 session.
• Saves nursing homes and hospitals from losing vital matching dollars: Continues just over $35 million to nursing homes, hospitals and entities who care for citizens with developmental disabilities to match federal Medicaid dollars. In total, the roughly $35 million in continued funding will give rise to an additional $56 million in matching funds for these critical priorities.
• Maintains lifelines to mental health care and addiction treatment: Funds a total of just under $3 million in appropriations for mental illness and addictions treatment, the substance abuse voucher program, and children and families dealing with autism.
• Helps parents stay in the workforce: Continues just over $5 million to maintain childcare assistance grants at 2015 appropriated levels.
• Keeps over $180 million in accessible reserve funds and leaves tens of millions in BND profits untouched: The Dem-NPL plan would leave the state with a $50 million General Fund balance, $50 million in the Budget Stabilization Fund, and a projected $83 million in the Strategic Investments and Improvements Fund. Additionally, by only relying upon $25 million in BND profits, at least $75 million in bank capital could be comfortably drawn from next session if needed.
• Adds up: Transfers $25 million from the Budget Stabilization Fund, $249 million from the Strategic Investments and Improvements Fund, and $25 million from Bank of North Dakota profits to the General Fund to preserve the above priorities and shore up state reserves.