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The North Dakota House of Representatives is completing work on the last few House resolutions and starting work on the Senate bills. A total of 269 bills and 14 resolutions were passed by the Senate and sent to the House.

Both chambers have been waiting for the new revenue forecasts to be delivered this week.

Once we have the revenues, we will re-evaluate proposed appropriations for agency budgets. Also reconsideration for such items as state employee salary will be discussed since there is a difference between the House and the Senate proposal.

The House has proposed a 2 percent increase for the first year of the biennium and 2 percent for the second year while the Senate is 2 percent and 3 percent.

In the first full week after crossover, the House passed some of the noncontroversial Senate bills. The committees are working on amendments and discussing possible changes to others as part of the committee process.

The Education and Environment Division of House Appropriations is working on Senate-proposed budgets for Department of Public Instruction, Parks and Recreation and the State Water Commission.

There are many facets of the DPI budget but one of major discussion is getting all the K-12 schools on the “formula.” That comes with a hefty one-time expense that we are trying to determine if it is affordable. We understand it has long-term financial benefits, however appropriating the entire funds from this biennium may not be feasible.

With the SWC budget, two major water projects, the $2.75 billion Fargo Diversion Flood control project and the $1.1 billion Red River Valley Water Supply are of concern. Not only is the state cost share for these projects a long-term issue but the opportunity for legal delays is unknown and could raise the costs. We cannot afford to have funded and started construction of these projects only to have them delayed by the courts, thus leaving the taxpayer with “stranded assets.”

As part of the SWC budget, Southwest Water presented its budget request to the House of approximately $30.5 million. The Senate had the SWC budget first and proposed approximately $16.5 million. However it is part of a “bucket” consisting of other regional water supply and municipal water supply projects.

Mandan’s request for a $12 million water intake project is also within that bucket. SWC has the authority to move money within a bucket to other like projects but cannot move money from one bucket to another without legislative approval.

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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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