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Politics & Government

Legislative Democrats outline their priorities for the remainder of the session

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University of North Dakota

Legislative Democrats have outlined their priorities – in the wake of this week’s new revenue forecast.

Senate Minority Leader Mac Schneider (D-Grand Forks) says the Democrats want to see a plan to build the buildings  that Governor Dalrymple had proposed in his executive budget. Schneider says the first option would be to pay cash for the buildings – like the Legislature has been doing for the past several years. But he says if the money isn’t there, the state could bond for them.

"Interest rates are exceptionally low," said Schneider at a Capitol news conference. "Now might be the time to bond some of these projects that we know need to get done sooner or later."

That concept – which Schneider described as a “contingency within a contingency” – is in a delayed bill that Sen. Tim Mathern is hoping to be approved for introduction.

"If the economy is actually down, it's actually the best time to build," said Mathern. "The financing and construction costs go down dramatically."

Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner (R-Dickinson) says he thinks some of the buildings on that list could be built with money already in the budget.

"We haven't had a chance to reassess which building projects need to be taken care of," said Wardner. "We've already committed to the medical school at UND. That's a done deal. There are some other projects we need to take a good look at and probably get them funded. It just hasn't happened yet."

Wardner says he would prefer that bonding not be used for those building projects.

The Democrats also say the Legislature should drop any plans for income and corporate tax relief – and instead focus on property tax relief.

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