Politics & Government

North Dakota's Public Employees Retirement System is looking toward the future -- and some potential funding challenges.

"We're currently funded at about 70 percent," said PERS acting executive director Sharon Schermeister. "Our goal is to be at 100 percent."

Schermeister said to get there, PERS has come up with some options. One of them would be to implement the fourth part of a recovery plan, begun in 2011, after PERS went through some challenges in its investments.

Gov. Burgum 'shadows' student at Beulah High School

May 3, 2018

Gov. Doug Burgum participated in the “Shadow a Student” challenge by shadowing a student at Beulah High School Wednesday (5-2-18).

He spent the day shadowing junior Phoebe Garman. Burgum attended classes and talked with students and teachers at Beulah.

Burgum said a big takeaway from his day is that there are dedicated teachers and administrators, trying to do the best job they can in educating students.

Donnell Preskey / ND Association of Counties

The North Dakota Department of Human Services is working on a “social services redesign project.”

As part of that effort, the Department held a workshop in Bismarck on “Increasing Efficiency and Effectiveness in State Government.” (5/1/18)

The workshop featured Utah Office of Management and Budget Executive Director Kristen Cox.

"Significant improvement is possible," Cox said in an interview with Prairie Public. "Less is more. And tools exist to achieve the ambitions targets that they set."

'Real ID' rolling out in ND

May 1, 2018

03023 Real ID                                                          5-1-18 ddt

North Dakota’s Department of Transportation has begun issuing “Real ID” at its Bismarck driver’s license office.

"A 'Real ID' is a credential that meets the standards the federal government set," said DOT Driver's License Division director Glenn Jackson. "The credential can be used for boarding aircraft, entry to federal facilities, military installations, things like that."

Members of the state Board of Higher Education aren’t happy with the budget guidelines Governor Burgum issued to state agencies, to help them prepare for the 2019-2021 biennium.

But the chairman of the board is urging some caution in making a response.

Burgum’s budget guidelines call for a 10 percent reduction in state spending for the colleges and universities – a $51 million reduction – plus an additional 3 percent as a contingency cut – another $15 million. That’s on top of the $106 million cut from higher-ed in the 2017 biennium.

Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

A representative of a group studying North Dakota’s behavioral health system says the state needs to invest more in prevention programs.

Dr. Bevin Croft of the Human Services Research Institute presented a number of findings and recommendations to the Legislature’s interim Human Services Committee.

"Compared to the resources being spent on treatment services, there's a relative scarcity of funds for both prevention and early intervention," Croft told the committee. "Many stakeholders saw it as a missed opportunity."

North Dakota Insurance Commissioner Jon Godfread said Congressional inaction on the Affordable Care Act is putting states like North Dakota in a difficult position.

Godfread said it appears Congress has put any “repeal and replace” efforts on Obamacare on the “back burner” – and he doubts anything will happen before the November election.

"That leaves it to the states to come up with some creative solutions on how we address our health care market," Godfread said.

Godfread said there are major challenges in health insurance.

"It's a starting point."

That's how Sen. Ray Holmberg (R-Grand Forks), the chairman of the North Dakota Senate Appropriations Committee, characterizes the budget guidelines laid out to state agencies.

Burgum has called for more reductions – 5 percent for smaller agencies, 10 percent for the larger ones, plus a five percent reduction in state government workers. K-12 education and Medicaid are spared cuts.

Holmberg said a lot can happen between now and the 2019 Legislature.

Gov. Burgum releases budget guidelines for 2019-2021

Apr 18, 2018
Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

Gov. Doug Burgum has given state agencies their budget guidelines for the 2019-2021 biennium.

This comes on the heels of the significant budget reductions enacted by the 2017 Legislature, where the budget was balanced by cutting general fund spending from $6 billion to $4.3 billion.

"It was paired with the use of every available dollar from various savings and reserve accounts," Burgum told the department heads. "We have to continue to pursue a vision of a leaner and more responsive state government."

ND Tax Dept.

The US Supreme Court will hear a case tomorrow (Tuesday, 4-17-18) that could force Internet retailers to start collecting state sales taxes.

The case comes from South Dakota.  It attempts to reverse the decision in the earlier “Quill” case from North Dakota. “Quill” sold office supplies through catalogs. The high court would not allow North Dakota and other states to require the collection of sales taxes from retailers that don’t have a physical presence in that state.  The justices ruled that it would be extremely difficult to collect sales taxes in different states.

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