It's a bold bill with a substantial amount of money going to oil impacted areas. The North Dakota House today approved a bill sending $742 million to oil country. The money is distributed to counties, cities, schools, and emergency services like fire and EMS. The bill spreads the money out across oil country but also includes money for roads, in areas not surrounded by oil development.
Before the 2013 legislative session began, a majority of lawmakers made a trip to western North Dakota to see for themselves how oil activity has affected the area.
Today they act...
"And because of those impacts it's an obligation for us to take care of those areas," said Rep. Al Carlson.
The bill has a big price tag of $742 million. An amount lawmakers say will have a tremendous impact.
"Proud we are going to take up this additional spending for western North Dakota. For years they have sat and demanded those dollars," said Rep. Kenton Onstad / (D) Parshall.
"One county says they will need 60 million for next ten years to rebuild roads destroyed by oil activity and to build roads for what's needed in the future," said Rep. Bob Skarphol / (R) Tioga.
The bill allows counties to keep a greater share of the revenue generated by oil production. It changes the formula used to deliver the money and expands how the dollars can be used. A major change gives the three "hub cities" of Williston, Dickinson and Minot a large share of the money based on oil related jobs. Yet, some legislators would like more money going to the smaller more rural areas impacted by oil development.
"Can't support this formula, it's not sufficient for impacts in Ward county," said Rep. Dan Ruby / (R) Minot.
"I would like to see impact grants increased more, help those on outside like Hettinger, Ward and McLean counties," Rep. Kenton Onstad / (D) Parshall.
Cities in oil country have requested 660 million dollars in oil impact funds over the past two years - well over the 130 million dollars appropriated by the 2011 legislature. That's why the funding being considered this legislative session is so much higher than two years ago.
"So we've done what said we would do when we walked into these chambers, we'd address the impact that oil development has caused," said Rep. Carlson.
This bill is a major piece of the Legislature's infrastructure plan. Last session lawmakers approved spending nearly $2 billion to fix infrastructure in the state.