Lawmakers discuss western N.D. infrastructure funding

BISMARCK—North Dakota lawmakers are trying to determine the best way to provide money for infrastructure relief to the state’s oil and gas producing counties.

One proposal discussed Monday was not popular with cities and counties, however.

Senate Bill 2045 would set aside $100 million from the permanent oil tax trust fund to provide grants to oil and gas impacted cities, counties, school districts and other taxing districts for infrastructure projects related to water, roads or housing.

Each dollar of grant funds awarded would need to be matched by $1 from the taxing district and $1 from the private sector. The money would be available between 2011 and 2017, with no more than $30 million in infrastructure grants awarded in any fiscal year.

Divide County Commissioner Doug Graupe said he was against the matching funds requirement for taxing districts. Townships are struggling to keep up with needs now and don’t have money to provide a match, he said.

“I would hope that you would change that line, the match line,” he told lawmakers on the Senate Finance and Taxation Committee. “I just don’t know how that can work, especially for townships.”

Keith Magnusson, who spoke for the North Dakota League of Cities, said the intent of the bill is good, but he too thought the match requirements were “pretty onerous.”

He wondered if some projects would be able to get a private match.

Sen. Dwight Cook, R-Mandan, said the bill doesn’t include criteria for how projects would be selected for grants. The bill allows the energy development impact director to make recommendations to the Board of University and School Lands for approval.

Right now, oil and gas producing cities and counties benefit from oil gross production tax revenue. There is $8 million provided per biennium for an Oil and Gas Impact Fund.

However, the state received $31.9 million in grant requests in 2010 for the $4 million available.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s proposal—which came after the above bill draft was created—is to remove that $8 million cap and make $100 million available for the fund.

This is included in House Bill 1013, which also moves the authority to make grants from the Energy Development Impact Office director to the Board of University and School Lands.

The bill also creates an Oil and Gas Impact Grant Advisory Committee to make recommendations every quarter to the board on what grants to approve.

Senate Bill 2033 and Senate Bill 2140 also relate to funding for the oil and gas producing counties.

Energy Development Impact Office Director Jeff Engleson said various proposals will be debated in the next four months before a final bill is approved.