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GOP Legislators unveil $1.1 billion bonding bill

Dave Thompson
Prairie Public

Republican lawmakers have unveiled a $1.1 billion bonding bill, that uses profits from the state’s Legacy Fund to pay off the bonds.

The bill is aimed at funding infrastructure projects.

Gov. Doug Burgum has proposed a $1.25 billion bonding package. The difference between Burgum’s proposal and this one is the Legislative package does not contain a proposed $700 million revolving loan fund for local political subdivisions. The lawmakers’ bill offers those funds as grants.

"We're at historic low interest rates," Rep. Todd Porter (R-Mandan) told reporters at the state Capitol. "We have a guaranteed stream of money coming out of the earnings of the Legacy Fund to pay the money back. And the growth of these types of projects over time by waiting far exceeds tghe benefits of bonding, and doing the projects now. I think it's smart business."

There has been resistance to bonding among some legislators, especially among some House Republicans. But Porter said having the money in a savings account, and not using it for these kinds of projects, is counter to what taxpayers wanted, when they voted to create the fund.

"They expect to see something, other than normal operations out of the money going into the General Fund," Porter said.

One part of the bill focuses on carbon capture from lignite-fired power plants. The measure would set aside $50 million for carbon-capture projects.

"We have 800 years of of lignite coal in this state," sad Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner (R-Dickinson). "We don't want to leave it as a stranded asset."

Wardner said the state has a number of coal-fired power plants that are in danger of closing, if ways aren’t found to remove the carbon emissions from the smokestacks.

"When they're gone, we won't be able to replace them," Wardner said.

Wardner said if that happens, the losers will people living in North Dakota 20 to 25 years from now.

"We're not gonna have the electric energy to meet the needs at that time," Wardner said.

Democrats have their own $2 billion bonding proposal. One House Democrat -- Rep. Corey Mock -- has signed as a co-sponsor of the GOP bill.

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