FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, April 4
(BISMARCK, N.D.) – House and Senate Democratic-NPL lawmakers held a press conference Monday calling attention to the impact of budget cuts on North Dakota citizens. Specific impacts addressed at the press conference included cuts to higher education and state employment, reductions in funding for rural infrastructure, and unmet needs in behavioral health and addiction services. Dem-NPL lawmakers also sounded warnings over potential increases in property taxes due to reduced funding for services and reductions in the 12 percent property tax buydown.
Cuts to Services:
“At the beginning of the session, lawmakers began work on HB 1040, a bill aimed at addressing North Dakota’s behavioral health crisis,” said Sen. Tim Mathern (D-11, Fargo). “This bill recommended $28 million in funding for unmet behavioral health needs and addiction services. But by the time the bill passed the House, funding had been reduced to just $200,000, less than one percent of the original recommendations. This reduction means we won’t make anywhere near the same level of commitment to addressing suicide prevention, alcoholism, addition and abuse, all of which result in long-term costs for our communities.”
“Deep cuts to higher education mean the loss of 600 or more positions in North Dakota’s university system,” said Rep. Kathy Hogan (D-21, Fargo). “But these cuts have even farther-reaching consequences, like reductions to entire programs, increases in tuition, more student debt, and fewer opportunities for cutting-edge research, which helps diversify and power our state’s economy.”
“Rural communities could be especially hard hit by the closure of Department of Transportation ‘station shops,’ which help ensure roads are properly maintained and cleared of snow, ice and other obstructions during inclement weather,” said Senate Dem-NPL Leader Joan Heckaman (D-23, New Rockford). North Dakota has over 7,400 miles of state highways, nearly 20,000 miles of county roads, 56,000 miles of township roads, and 5,000 bridges, all of which must be maintained in safe and acceptable condition. Reductions in state funding mean less frequent maintenance and fewer dollars for upkeep of this infrastructure, added Heckaman.
Reduced Revenues & Property Taxes:
Senator Jim Dotzenrod (D-26, Wyndmere) emphasized the policies enacted by the Republican legislature during previous sessions, which substantially lowered revenue collections and contributed to North Dakota’s budget mess.
“Over the last several sessions, our legislative leaders pushed through tax cuts for oil companies and reduced corporate taxes in a very large way,” said Dotzenrod. “Most of the benefits from these tax cuts went to individuals and corporations that are doing quite well and don’t need help from the government. Now that commodity prices and sales tax collections are down, we should be in an environment of shared sacrifice, which is a term we’re hearing very frequently in the halls of the Capitol. But those who have benefited the most from these earlier tax cuts are not being asked to give up any of the advantages or gains they’ve been given by the legislature. Instead, the legislature is talking about enacting cuts that primarily affect those on the lower end of the economic scale.”
House Dem-NPL Leader Corey Mock (D-18, Grand Forks) discussed how the Republican supermajority is attempting to balance the budget and the long-term implications of their approach.
“As difficult as this budget is, future budgets will be even more challenging because we don’t have the ongoing revenue to support this approach – it’s just not sustainable,” said Mock. “Right now, we’re balancing our budget by draining all of our savings accounts, which are funded by the same oil taxes that have been slashed. We’re not going to have these savings accounts to draw on in future years. This approach will come back to haunt us, and we’re highly concerned that the next item on the chopping block is the property tax relief that’s been promised to our citizens. North Dakotans may see higher property taxes by next year, and that would be a clear violation of the promises this legislature has made.”
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