The House and Senate Democratic-NPL Caucus was pleased to hear several of the proposals suggested by Governor Doug Burgum during his budget address but said many areas fell short.
“Now is the right time for us to make greater investments in the hardworking people of North Dakota and their families because we currently have significant one-time resources from our ending fund balance, a strong economy and federal funding from the Biden administration and Democratic-led Congress,” said Democratic-NPL House Leader Rep. Josh Boschee (D-Fargo).
Democratic-NPL legislators support several of the governor’s proposals for the 2023-25 biennium, including increased investments in the higher education Challenge Grant Fund and the Housing Incentive Fund. Boschee said, “these programs have proven time and time again that when the state provides incentivized state dollars, North Dakotans and industry are generous with their matches to make the programs a success. Challenge Grants help make college more affordable through scholarships, and the Housing Incentive Fund addresses the state’s significant need for affordable housing.”
However, several areas fall short, said Senate Democratic-NPL Leader Sen. Kathy Hogan (D-Fargo).
“We are happy to see the governor recognize the best way to recruit and retain a talented workforce is to pay them more,” Hogan said. “However, we agree with workers and their employers that we need to increase the governor’s proposals for childcare workforce, K-12 educators and paraprofessionals, and state employees. Not only do his proposed increases fail to keep up with rising costs, but they also don’t make up for the many years in which the Republicans passed too-small salary increases.”
Childcare should also be a top priority during the upcoming session, she added.
“The governor’s proposal represents a solid down payment in addressing the ongoing childcare crises throughout North Dakota, but we know more will be needed to truly make childcare more affordable and accessible,” Hogan said. “The Democratic-NPL caucus has been a strong proponent of investing in children and families for the last two decades, and we look forward to working with the governor and our legislative colleagues on solutions.”
The governor’s proposals fall short in other crucial areas.
“In the middle of a workforce crisis, closing the popular defined benefit pension fund for public employees will only make it harder to recruit talented workers to our state,” Boschee said. “Likewise, the governor’s proposal to implement a flat income tax will take $500M off the table every biennium that could be used to make further investments in education, childcare and workforce development, while disproportionately benefiting the wealthiest North Dakotans. Enhancing our budget’s dependence on fluctuating oil and gas taxes is the wrong solution for the future of our state.”