Mental health, schools and roads
The Jamestown Sun - 12/1/2018
Dec. 01--The members of the North Dakota Legislature from District 12 see opportunity and challenges in the upcoming session which gets underway with an organizational session next week.
"There was a steep learning curve last time," said Rep. Bernie Satrom, R-Jamestown. "We're looking forward to this session."
Satrom and Rep. Jim Grueneich, R-Jamestown, were elected in 2016 to House seats. They serve District 12 along with Sen. John Grabinger, D-Jamestown, who was elected in 2012 and re-elected in 2016. The district includes most of Jamestown.
"There are a lot of challenges ahead of us," Grabinger said. "There should be more revenue because oil production is up and oil prices were up. When revenue is up it makes it easier, but it still will be a struggle to meet the needs."
Grabinger said one of his top priorities will be dealing with opioid and drug abuse and behavioral health issues in the state. Another top issue could be property taxes. The state assumed the cost of operating social services programs from the counties but that did not always lead to reduced county taxes, Grabinger said.
"We certainly recognize we didn't hold the counties harmless in this," he said. "We let the counties and the taxpayers down."
Primary education continues to be a top issue for Grueneich.
"We always have to prioritize K (kindergarten) through 12 (high school)," he said. "It is a big part of the budget and enrollment, at least statewide, is up."
In the last legislative session, primary education funding for 2017 through 2019 was kept the same as the previous biennium, Grueneich said.
"No more, no less," he said. "They will need an increase this session."
Grueneich said aid for local infrastructure projects like roads or water and sewer projects could come from what the Republican leadership in North Dakota has called "Operation Prairie Dog." The bill, if passed, would provide up to $280 million for local government infrastructure projects.
"That particular legislation would address non-oil counties like us," Grueneich said. "There are a lot of needs in the townships and cities."
Grabinger said his concern with Operation Prairie Dog is the sustainability and feasibility of the project funding.
"We certainly have the infrastructure needs all across the state," he said.
The organizational session of the North Dakota Legislature convenes Dec. 3-5. The Budget Section will meet at 11 a.m. on Dec. 5 to hear revenue forecasts for the upcoming session and the governor's preliminary budget recommendations.
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