Governor Jack Dalrymple today said he is pleased that the North Dakota Legislature has provided significant funding for disaster assistance and to address direct impacts of North Dakota's rapidly developing oil and gas industry. Dalrymple said he will sign Senate Bill 2371 into law.
"This special session of the Legislative Assembly has given us an opportunity to address several pressing needs that could not be postponed," Dalrymple said. "Because of our strong financial condition, we can address these important issues, while holding the line on on-going program costs."
Disaster Recovery Assistance
Dalrymple recommended the Legislature approve a loan program to help North Dakota residents who have been forced from their homes because of flooding and now want to rebuild or buy new property. The Legislature responded today by establishing a $50 million fund called the Rebuilders Loan Program. The legislation directs the Bank of North Dakota to offer fixed, one-percent disaster assistance loans of up to $30,000. Qualified homeowners will not have to make payments on the principal or interest for the first two years of the 20-year loans. Borrowers can use up to 20 percent of the loan to cover existing debt obligations. The loan program will be available to residents in counties that are included in the state's presidential disaster declaration. Those counties are: Barnes, Benson, Burleigh, McHenry, Morton, Ramsey, Renville, Richland and Ward.
The Legislature also followed Dalrymple's recommendation to create an infrastructure grant fund that will help counties, cities and other political subdivisions cover the costs of repairing flood-related damages not reimbursable through the Federal Emergency Management Agency or other assistance programs. The Legislature appropriated $30 million for the grant program which will be administered by the North Dakota Department of Trust Lands. Additionally, the Legislature appropriated $500,000 for grants to flood-damaged schools.
Other disaster recovery assistance includes:
* $23 million to help cities, counties and townships outside North Dakota's oil and gas counties offset the costs of extraordinary road repairs. Townships will receive $14.5 million and counties $8.5 million.
* $10 million in additional Rebuilders Loan Program funding. Cities and counties also have the discretion to use these funds toward principal reduction on rebuilder loans.
* $6 million in grant funds to help counties in the Devils Lake Basin match federal funding for emergency road repairs.
* Authority for the Department of Commerce to allocate federal grant funds for statewide disaster relief. The state has requested $235 million in federal community development block grant funding.
* $29.5 million in state funds required to match assistance provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
* $5 million in contingency funds for political subdivisions to meet local cost-share requirements in the event of a significant natural disaster in 2012.
In his address Monday to the Legislative Assembly, Dalrymple recommended that legislators give the State Water Commission additional spending authority to advance the state's flood mitigation projects. The Legislature authorized an additional $50 million in spending authority and encouraged the State Water Commission to place a high priority on floodway property acquisitions and project construction. The funding will be used to supplement federal funding and to meet state and local cost-share requirements.
On Monday, Dalrymple urged the Legislative Assembly to increase the state's allowable tax credits for the development of low-income housing. Dalrymple said the state should increase the allowable tax credits to further promote the development of affordable housing in communities impacted by flooding and in the state's oil and gas counties. The Legislature responded by increasing the maximum allowable tax credits from $4 million to $15 million during the 2011 and 2012 tax years. Dalrymple has also asked the Bank of North Dakota to enhance its existing loan programs for affordable housing.
Assistance for Oil Impacts
In April, the Legislature followed Dalrymple's recommendation to provide $100 million in oil impact grant funds to address impacts from the rapidly growing oil and gas industry in western North Dakota. About $54 million of the $100 million in grant funds have been awarded so far.
Dalrymple asked the Legislature on Monday to provide additional funding, saying oil impacts have proven to be even greater than expected. Today, the Legislature appropriated $30 million in additional impact grant funds for cities, counties and other political subdivisions. The funding package also includes $5 million for counties in the early stages of oil and gas production.
Enhanced Public Safety
The rapid growth in North Dakota's oil region also has created a need for enhanced public safety. Following the Governor's recommendation, the Legislature authorized funding for four additional Highway Patrol troopers to be stationed in western North Dakota. In addition to troopers already serving the area, Dalrymple also has directed the Highway Patrol to send another nine troopers to western North Dakota when they complete their training in December. Action taken by Dalrymple and the Legislature will provide for a total of 13 additional troopers for public safety enhancement in western North Dakota.
Senate Bill 2371 also includes:
* An appropriation of $1 million for potential legal costs. The state is prepared to file a lawsuit against the EPA if the federal agency attempts to unreasonably restrict the oil production process of hydraulic fracturing.
* An increase in the Department of Transportation's borrowing authority for emergency relief projects. The Legislature increased the DOT's borrowing authority from $120 million to $200 million.
* A provision to provide multi-trip permits for trucks hauling overweight and oversized loads. The provision is intended to expedite the permitting process in response to increased truck traffic throughout the state.
Other legislation passed during the special session includes:
* Newly drawn legislative districts
* $2 million for enhanced safety at Williston State College