Thursday, Gov. Doug Burgum outlined his vision for how the state should spend the roughly $1.12 billion it received from the American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA.
Of the more than $1 billion, $423 million have already been allocated for infrastructure and Capital Projects Funds.
Burgum proposed the remaining $697 million be invested in three main areas: workforce and economic development ($326 million); infrastructure and capital improvements ($237 million); and emergency response, health care and citizen service efficiency ($134 million).
He also recommended that $207 million of the state’s excess general fund balance (totaling $412 million) will go toward providing tax credits of up to $500 per return in 2021 and 2022.
“It’s not the state’s money. This is the people’s money. This money was given for the relief and rescue, it’s meant to help our citizens of our state and help the businesses in our state and to help our economy recover, so that’s why we need to move now,” Burgum said.
North Dakota has until 2024 to allocate the ARPA money and 2026 to spend it.
In a one-on-one interview with KX News, Burgum further explained his proposal.
What are your top priorities you would like to see the legislature take on with this funding?
“Workforce number one, infrastructure number two, and then a broad set of things can help improve the efficiency of government, delivery of services. The other big announcement today was also the proposal to do a $500 per tax filer tax credit for this year 2021 and next year 2022 because we think it would be really smart to get some money back into the hands of hardworking North Dakotans.“
Of those proposals you laid out, the three main ones, how much of that money goes toward COVID recovery for the economy, versus new investments?
“It’s almost all entirely new. I mean, one of the great things about the state of North Dakota both last year when we had the $1.25 billion of CARES act money or this time when we’re talking about just over a billion dollars, a billion 1 for capital projects and for the ARPA, or the American relief plan dollars. Less than 15% of that is going toward things related to health care. Other states are spending 100% of it that way but we’ve been able to get through this in a way where we can invest in diversifying the economy, we can invest in growth, we can invest in infrastructure — all things that are going to help us moving forward with the state.“
You mentioned the ongoing discussions with legislative leaders regarding their four days left they have to deal with this and redistricting. Do you expect to need to call a special session? How do you plan to work with lawmakers to get this plan through?
“We’ve had a very productive and open dialogue with the legislature. They obviously have a duty they have to fulfill, which is redistricting before the end of the year and they’ve got four days they’ve reserved, so they can reconvene at anytime. They’ve discussed coming back on Nov. 8 to do that redistricting work and we’re still in a dialogue on whether or not in conjunction with coming back whether or not there would be an opportunity to appropriate some of these $697 million of unappropriated federal funds and the $400 million of the excess ending fund balance that we could also make some investments to really help move and to do that both at the same time in November.
Why that would be helpful would be that in some cases of infrastructure, getting those dollars appropriated in November would allow us to do bidding this winter and be able to participate in the 2022 construction season. Of course the thing that I’m very worried about is inflation and just keeping these dollars here and leaving them in a checking account literally in the Bank of North Dakota earning .07% when we could invest those dollars in the state with matches from the private sector — spend a dollar, get a dollar from the private sector — that’s 100% return versus almost no return. If we leave the money in the checking account for the next year or two and don’t spend it and think that’s being conservative, we’re going to end up with a billion dollars that’s worth $900 million or $800 million because inflation will just have a corrosive effect and will reduce the ability for us to spend those dollars, particularly when we look at the potential for inflation in construction areas.“