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Dakota Datebook

Special Session for Corn Plant


North Dakota’s legislative business is usually done on a tight schedule, no more than 80 days every two years. But sometimes, special sessions are necessary to patch budget shortfalls, to reconsider funding, or to redistrict the Legislature. There have been fifteen special sessions in 130 years.

Governor Ed Schafer called a special session in the summer of 1994 to consider state tax incentives to attract a $260 million corn processing plant to the southern Red River Valley. Minnesota and South Dakota also were bidding for the facility. 

The special session got underway with a “skeleton crew” of legislative employees. A bill began the hearing process in the House, then the Senate. For new businesses, it offered a package of property and sales tax exemptions on construction materials, machinery, and other items. The Republican-controlled House passed the bill 95-0. The Democratic-NPL-controlled Senate passed the bill 47-1, which Governor Schafer signed two and a half hours later, on this date in 1994.

At the bill signing ceremony, Schafer said, “This is a good bill, and it’s going to be beneficial for the state of North Dakota no matter what happens.” The only lawmaker to vote against the bill expressed concerns that the package was too sweeping and might affect school district funding when city and county commissions negotiated for big projects. A provision of the law also drew concern for a potential 20-year property tax exemption.

Finalists for the factory were the cities of Hankinson and Wahpeton in North Dakota, and Big Stone City in South Dakota. Wahpeton got the project in March of 1995. At the time, North Dakota’s Legislature was meeting in regular session. State representatives gave away bottles of corn syrup to celebrate. Then-representative Jack Dalrymple announced the news to applause on the House floor. The Bismarck Tribune Editorial Board hailed the plant as a “bonanza” for North Dakota’s economy, given the construction work, plus 150 new jobs and $7 million in annual wages. In May of 1995, ProGold broke ground for the plant north of Wahpeton.

Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura

Jack Dura interview with Ed Schafer, 2020, April 30.
The Bismarck Tribune. 1994, June 19. Page 1
The Bismarck Tribune. 1994, June 30. Page 1
The Bismarck Tribune. 1994, July 1. Page 1
The Bismarck Tribune. 1994, July 2. Page 1
The Bismarck Tribune. 1994, July 4. Page 1
The Bismarck Tribune. 1995, Feb. 6. Page 6
The Bismarck Tribune. 1995, March 15. Page 1

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