Expenses for law enforcement response to the ongoing Dakota Access Pipeline protests continue to grow at a steady rate, recently eclipsing the $20 million mark.
As of Wednesday, numbers from the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services put the total cost at $20.4 million.
Of this, $15.5 million has been to cover the personnel costs of those responding to the protest camps in southern Morton County. An additional $2.5 million has been for personnel support and the remaining $2.4 million has been for equipment and supplies.
“I’m not sure of what additional dollars will be needed or when we will request them. Obviously, the response to the protest is ongoing, and we will continue to incur expenses,” DES spokeswoman Cecily Fong said via email.
House Majority Leader Al Carlson, R-Fargo, said the Legislature will be addressing the reimbursement costs during the session.
The hope is to be able to do a one-time approval further dollars, if possible, according to Carlson.
DES has gone before the North Dakota Emergency Commission multiple times during the interim in recent months seeking dollars to address the ongoing situation and received approval for $17 million total.
Law enforcement has been dealing protesters that have, at times, numbered in the thousands camping near the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s reservation boundary. Many of them have been camping on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers land by the Missouri River. The multi-state, $3.8 billion pipeline is planned to be bored underneath the river near the reservation boundary.
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Rainy day fund policy ideas
House leaders are planning to push potential changes in how the state replenishes one of its primary rainy day funds.
After essentially draining the Budget Stabilization Fund while plugging a nearly $1.4 billion budget shortfall last year, Carlson said the method to replenish the fund and how much can be put into it needs adjusting.
House Bill 1152 would add the Budget Stabilization Fund to the list of places in which oil and gas tax revenues can flow.
House Bill 1154 would increase the cap on the fund from 9.5 percent of the final approved state general fund budget for a biennium to 15 percent.
Both bills were introduced by Rep. Jeff Delzer, R-Underwood; Carlson signed on to HB1152.
Carlson said the legislation would “establish a formula in re-filling that bucket” after it was depleted.
Under current law, the state treasurer must transfer any funds beyond $65 million available at the end of the biennium or whatever is necessary to the Budget Stabilization Fund to reach the fund’s cap. If there isn’t enough general fund dollars to meet the cap, earnings are retained until the cap is reached. Once the Budget Stabilization Fund cap is reached dollars beyond that are put in the general fund.