Editorial: January 2015
Our priorities for this Legislature
The North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives (NDAREC) will be representing the interests of our member-owners from across the state during the 2015 legislative session. While it’s not possible to know of every issue that might arise during a session, we will be offering support for a few initiatives that have already been identified.
Funding for infrastructure: We support Governor Jack Dalrymple’s executive budget that seeks more strategic investments in infrastructure across the state, and especially in the oil-producing counties. During the 2015-2017 biennium, the governor’s budget proposes to invest $3 billion across the state in infrastructure projects alone, including highways, roads, streets, affordable housing, airports, water supply systems and critical flood control projects.
For the oil-producing counties and cities in the west, the governor proposes that after counties receive the first $5 million from 100 percent of oil production tax revenues, they should receive an increased percentage of the revenue from the oil production tax for the 2015-2017 biennium that tapers off as infrastructure needs catch up with development. With the governor’s proposed funding formula adjustment, the gross oil production tax is projected to generate $1.7 billion for oil counties and their political subdivisions – $1 billion more than what the region will receive from this funding source in the current biennium.
The budget also recommends $873 million in up-front, supplemental funding to “jump start” the 2015 construction season for infrastructure projects.
Support for Outdoor Heritage Fund: NDAREC opposed Measure #5 in the last election, primarily because the funding source for this conservation and recreation initiated measure was built into the state’s constitution. At the time, NDAREC also supported Gov. Dalrymple’s call for increased state funding for the Outdoor Heritage Fund that was established in the 2013 legislative session. In the next biennium, the governor seeks $50 million for the Outdoor Heritage Fund, a $20 million increase.
In addition, the executive budget recommends upgrades to Lake Sakakawea State Park at Pick City and nine other state parks across the state, totaling $30 million in new park investments.
Support for property tax relief: NDAREC will seek additional property tax relief for electric cooperatives, on par with the tax relief that is provided to the state’s investor-owned utilities (IOUs). Last session, the Legislature provided property tax relief, in part, through a state paid property tax credit. While the RECs received some property tax relief last session, we did not get the benefit of the state-paid property tax credit. Thus, we’ll continue to seek property tax relief that is comparable to the relief provided to the state’s IOUs this session.
We encourage our members to be engaged in the legislative process. We’ve included information on how to contact your local legislators on page 3 of this issue. Be involved!