Democratic legislators reveal proposals for state employee pay, K-12 and NDUS funding

Dec 5, 2018

Democratic legislators at a Capitol news conference.
Credit Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

Democratic Legislators are rolling out their priority list for the 2019 session.

Those priorities include more funding for schools, certain social programs, and for state employees. Their plan is to raise state employee pay by $300 a month in the first year of the biennium, and 3 percent across-the-board in the second year.

Sen. Tim Mathern (D-Farg0) told reporters state government is competing with a number of private sector jobs now available in North Dakota.

"Without comprehensive pay and benefits, the state will lose quality employees at a faster and faster rate," Mathern said. "Services will suffer as a result."

Gov. Doug Burgum and Republican Legislative leaders have said they want to give state employees raises. The state workers have gone for three years without a general pay increase.

For K-12, the lawmakers are proposing increasing spending by three percent per year in the next biennium.

"The major issue facing us this session is catching up from the 'hold even' funding from the past budget cycle," said Sen. Erin Oban (D-Bismarck).

The 2017 Legislature did not cut spending for schools, but didn't increase it, either.

And for the University System, Oban said Democrats support the system’s “needs based” budget.

"Our higher-ed system has done their damndest with the deep cuts they sustained last session," Oban said.  "This cannot continue."

Oban said the state Constitution requires the Legislature to "adequately fund" the colleges in the system.

"The investments we make in higher-ed keeps our students and families from having to pay higher tuition rates, fees and, in the end, student loan debt," Oban said.

The Democrats said they have a number of bill drafts related to their priorities.