Budget Section approves latest CARES Act expenditure round | Prairie Public Broadcasting

Budget Section approves latest CARES Act expenditure round

Aug 13, 2020

The Legislature’s Budget Section has approved the latest round of spending from the federal CARES Act.

But lawmakers raised some questions about some of the expenditures.

One item in question was $59 million, to go to local subdivisions. When the state’s Emergency Commission approved that line item, it also strongly encouraged that cities and counties use the money to reduce property taxes.  Rep. Larry Bellew (R-Minot) moved to send it back to the Emergency Commission, to make those mill levy reductions mandatory. Rep. Mike Nathe (R-Bismarck) agreed. Nathe said Bellew's motion adds some teeth to the recommendation.

"I've seen this movie way too many times," Nathe said. "We send the money, hope they do it, and they don't. Then we're all upset about it."

But Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner (R-Dickinson) said sending it back to the Emergency Commission would mean unnecessary delays in getting cities and counties needed money.

"They've got expenses with COVID, and that's what they're going to use it for," Wardner said. "I believe we out to let them have some flexibility."

Bellew’s motion failed, and the money was approved.

Meanwhile, Rep. Larry Klemin (R-Bismarck) wanted to deny the allocation of $83,000 to Workforce Safety and Insurance, to cover COVID-related workers’ compensation claims for certain volunteer first-responders. Klemin told the Budget Section the Legislature has in the past rejected expanding workers’ comp coverage to those volunteers. And Klemin said he believes Gov. Doug Burgum overstepped his authority by this action.

"It is inappropriate for this Budget Section to do something where the Legislature has declined to do it in the past," Klemin said.

Supporters of the expenditure said this coverage would be narrow, and would apply to those who have caught the virus, of hva ehad to quarantine for 14 days.

That expenditure passed.

The total in this CARES Act round was just under $320 million. The state has received $1.25 billion in CARES funding.