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Gov. Burgum unveils his executive budget request -- includes $1.25 billion bonding plan

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In his 2020 executive budget request, Gov. Doug Burgum is proposing a $1.25 billion bonding program for infrastructure projects.

Burgum presented his executive budget recommendation to state Legislators Thuursday.

Burgum told Legislators the earnings of the Legacy Fund would be used to create a Legacy Bond Repayment Fund. That money would be used for bond debt payments. It also creates a revolving loan fund, where local governments can go to borrow money for local infrastructure projects.

"We can save tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars for our state and political subdivisions over time, versus waiting years and years to pay cash for infrastructure," Burgum said.

Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner (R-Dickinson) has been working on a bonding plan. He said it’s a little different than Burgum’s plan.

"He has this revolving loan fund," Wardner said. "I would be more grants."

Wardner said he favors grants because the Legislature has already promised some projects will be receiving money from the state.

"They haven't got it all yet," Wardner said.

For example, Wardner says lawmakers have committed money to the F-M diversion project. He said the Legislature has committed to $750 million for that project, and only $450 million has been appropriated.

"If we don't do something to help them keep going, the cost of that project continues to increase by inflation," Wardner said. "We can do bonding for less than two percent -- that's less than inflation."

Sen. Tim Mathern (D-Fargo) is also crafting a bonding bill.

K-12 education

In the budget request, Burgum is proposing flat funding for K-12 schools. He said under current budget projections, the state would not have enough money in the general fund to maintain the on-going level of payment, which is $10,036 per pupil.

"This executive budget proposes a one-time transfer of $83 million from the foundation aid stabilization fund to maintain the per pupil payment at the current level," Burgum said.

Burgum said the state is still showing its commitment to K-12 education, which he said will now make up about 38 percent of the state’s budget.

Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner (R-Dickinson) said given the current budget situation, hold-even for schools is pretty good.

"When you look at the way revenue dipped on us this biennium -- and I'm talking about the oil revenue -- I thing coming out of it with close to a hold-even budget is pretty much a success," Wardner said.

But Senate Minority Leader Joan Heckaman (D-New Rockford) said she is concerned about that level.

"In previous sessions, I've discussed with my schools thagt anywhere from two and a half and three percent is the cost to continue," Heckaman said. "I'm not sure of those "cost-to-continue" funds are somewhere else in the budget."

State school superintendent Kirsten Baesler said she’s happy for the hold-even per pupil payments. She said it demonstrates the state is committed to K-12 education.

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