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Politics & Government

Budget Section says 'no' to Job Service contingency funding

The Legislature’s Budget Section has rejected giving Job Service North Dakota $240,000 from the state’s contingency fund – to help keep some staff on board through January.

Job Service is expecting a big increase in unemployment claims in January, because of the slowdown in the oil industry.  Job Service is a federally-funded state agency. And federal funds have been cut.

The state’s Emergency Commission approved the request on a 3 to 2 vote. House Appropriations Committee chairman Jeff Delzer (R-Underwood) is on that committee. He voted “no” – and told the Budget Section he did so because a request like this should be before the full Legislature.

"I understand their situation," said Delzer. "I think they should have come to the Legislature a year ago. They should have been able to see this coming, because we were making major changes with our oil industry even then. They could have asked for a contingent line, to be used if and when federal funds stop. And the whole Legislature would have the opportunity to make that choice."

Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner (R-Dickinson) was a “yes” vote at the Emergency Commission. He says Delzer has some valid points. But he says he’s concerned for the oil workers who have lost their jobs.

"Many of them are frustrated because they've lost their positions," Wardner told the Budget Section. "Now they're going to have to wait for their unemployment. And they've got financial obligations."

Job Service says it will have to cut about 20 full time staff about a month ahead of schedule. The agency is also looking at closing some of its local offices, and moving toward more automation.

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