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Members of the 66th Legislative Assembly are working to try to bring the session to a close, hopefully the end of this week. Some of the major issues that normally might delay adjournment, such as the salary proposal for state employees, were settled early with the House proposal of 2% in the first year of the biennium and 2.5% in the second year. The House plan provides a larger increase for the lower-paid employees with a minimum of $120 a month and a maximum of $200 a month.

Senate Bill 2020, the State Water Commission budget, is another very important bill for our district and the state and has passed the House and Senate with a total of nearly $1 billion for the 2019-21 biennium.

The bill includes $37.2 million for rural water systems. Sixteen of the 22 rural water systems on the State Water Commission two-year plan will be able to utilize those funds at a cost share rate of 75% state and 25% local. Missouri West Water has two projects included on the list.

Southwest Water, that is “owned” by the state and considered “capital assets,” has been projected to receive $25 million to continue project build-out.

Forty-five million dollars are included to address the water supply needs of 47 municipalities, Elgin included, on the State Water Commission two-year plan. The cost share rate for municipality water supply is 60% state and 40% local.

Flood control funds beyond Fargo and Minot are $48 million, of which Mandan is projected for $21 million to upgrade the Lower Heart River dikes to FEMA certification level.

Last week, the House passed Senate Bill 2015, the budget for the Office of Management and Budget. It will go to conference committee; the conferees for this bill will be the majority and minority leaders with the chairmen of the House and Senate Appropriations committees.

Numerous amendments will be added to SB2015 that will include policy language and appropriations necessary to satisfy the agreements made by both chambers to finalize the session. Currently, SB2015 contains the following major initiatives: $3.5 million litigation pool for agencies to access in case of lawsuits, $1.9 million for extraordinary repairs throughout the Capitol complex, $2 million for remodeling the public entrance on the Capitol’s south side, $500,000 for the start of an assessment of all state lands and facilities and $250,000 for a state student internship program.

A provision included in the bill outlines the recognition of Legacy Fund earnings for budgeting purposes. In the development of the state budget, Legacy earnings transferred to the general fund at the end of each biennium in accordance with the state constitution will be considered as part of the general fund beginning balance for the subsequent biennium rather than as revenue of the biennium in which the transfer was made. Of course, this all may change by the time it’s all said and done.

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Rep. Jim Schmidt, R-Huff, is vice chairman of the Education and Environment Division of House Appropriations Committee.

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