August Legislative Report from Sen. Larry Robinson

By the time you read this article, we will see the end of the month of August. The Summer has once again passed quickly. In the last couple of weeks, it has been good seeing our farmers harvesting wheat. Early reports indicate some decent crops with good quality and yield. Challenges continue getting around water issues in most fields.

The Budget Section of the legislature met by way of a TEAMS lately to approve millions of Federal Stimulus funding. A significant portion of this funding went to our cities and counties. They have been on the front line in the response to the COVID 19 pandemic. Counties will receive a total of $25.4 million and Cities will receive a total of $33.5 million. In addition, local Health Departments will receive some $20 million. Needless to say, local governments welcomed the approval of these funds. Our local governments have experienced increased costs in responding to the COVID Pandemic, and in many cases reduced revenues caused by the economic turndown. We send special thanks to all font line workers during this challenging time. Our front line workers have stood tall  during this Pandemic.

Many of our City and County employees are front line workers, be they medical/EMT professionals, Health Department, Law Enforcement, Fire Departments, and numerous other city and county employees. A total of $59 million will be paid out to local law enforcement jurisdictions based on the number of law enforcement personnel and overall payroll costs during the months of March through September. According to Joe Morrissette, Director of the office of Management and Budget, “These funds will be a welcome form of tax relief to jurisdictions experiencing a loss of revenue.”  The dollars also come at a time when our local sub divisions are preparing their budgets for the upcoming year. State aid to political subdivisions has declined including aid to the highway distribution fund allocations as well as significant reductions in hotel and lodging taxes.

North Dakota has received a total of $1.25 billion from the COVID 19 Pandemic Relief Fund as part of a $2.2 trillion CARES Act appropriation. The Budget Section of the legislature approved a total of $319.7 million during the recent meeting. Funding was allocated to a host of State Departments including the Commerce Department, Health Department, Department of Corrections, Higher Education, Department of Human Services, Job Service, Judicial Branch and several other state departments and agencies.

As I write this article, all state agencies are working aggressively preparing their budgets for the next budget cycle beginning July 1, 2021. Those budgets are then submitted to the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget.  The Governor and OMB will work over the next couple of months drafting the budget for the state of North Dakota. That document is referred to as the Executive Budget Recommendation. It is the blueprint that the legislature will work from when the session convenes in January of 2021. Given the uncertainty of the economic situation with agriculture, energy, and overall business activity in our state, coupled with the ongoing COVID 19 Pandemic, the challenge preparing  this budget will be especially difficult.

Thank you.

Until next time, you can reach me at Take care and stay safe.