North Dakota Senate approves $571 million ARPA spending plan

Local News

North Dakota’s Senate passed one of its largest spending bills this special session.

It will allocate $571 million from the American Rescue Plan Act to roughly 40 different state needs — including $150 million for a natural gas pipeline.

Though the bill ended up passing 41-6, the Senate Appropriations Committee chairman started by describing it as “lumpy gravy” — saying there’s some things lawmakers will like and others they won’t.

That proved to be true as the 47 members debated amendments and commented on the bill at length.

Sen. Ray Holmberg went line by line explaining some of the more than 40 funding allocations.

“It’s a natural gas infrastructure pipeline from the west to the east,” Sen. Holmberg said about one proposal.

Holmberg touted the bill as an opportunity for the state to make one-time investments.

“The money that is expended, which was really unanticipated, was to be used for one-time funding,” Holmberg said.

Lawmakers posed some objections.

Sen. Tim Mathern said he wished it included funding for child care and paid family leave.

“The best social service agency, Mr. President, is a family,” Mathern said.

Sen. Janne Myrdal wanted to take out the funding for higher education and vote on the bill separately.

“This bill, Mr. President, seems to me like you go to a restaurant and you have the money so you order everything on the menu and you think it’s healthy for you,” Myrdal said.

Sen. Brad Bekkedahl suggested an amendment asking for $875,000 to help solve a workforce shortage at Williston State College.

“The state institution has now 15 percent of its positions unfilled the very first day our new president arrived on campus,” Bekkedahl said.

His amendment failed by voice vote. By the end of the debate, 41 lawmakers gave it the greenlight.

The next step for the bill is to be voted on in the House.

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