Monday, November 15, 2021 - 05:01pm

Gov. Doug Burgum today signed the final bills of the Legislature’s special session, approving strategic investments of federal dollars into infrastructure, workforce, economic development and other priorities.

The investments include support for a major natural gas pipeline to carry gas from the state’s western oil patch to eastern North Dakota to serve communities and attract new industry – a key proposal from the Burgum-Sanford administration’s Accelerate ND plan.

“Combined with tax relief, these strategic investments will benefit North Dakota taxpayers right now and for generations to come. Making these investments will grow and diversify our economy, make our state more competitive, improve the efficiency of government services, avoid inflationary costs and create long-term cost savings for North Dakota taxpayers,” Burgum said. “We’re deeply grateful to legislative leaders and the entire assembly for their collaboration on these priorities. Our shared conservative approach to fiscal management has allowed us to make these one-time investments without growing government while also providing tax relief for half a million North Dakota citizens.”

The legislation signed today – House Bills 1505 and 1506 and Senate Bill 2345 – strategically invest the state’s allocation from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

The largest single investment is $150 million to the North Dakota Industrial Commission for matching grants to support natural gas pipeline infrastructure, including a major east-west natural gas pipeline from the Bakken oil fields. The total also includes $10 million that must be used to transport natural gas to areas in Grand Forks County, where it will support a recently announced wet corn mill. A trans-state natural gas pipeline will help lift the ceiling on oil production in North Dakota by better utilizing the state’s abundant natural gas supplies, while also generating additional state tax revenue that supports the Legacy Fund and other state funds for schools, water projects and outdoor recreation.

Other infrastructure investments include:

  • $317 million for road and bridge projects approved by the Legislature during its regular session last spring, plus $135 in funding authority beyond the regular federal funding in the North Dakota Department of Transportation’s 2021-23 biennium.
  • $75 million for critical water infrastructure.
  • $17.9 million for deferred maintenance and capital improvements at state parks, plus $5 million in matching funds to renovate and upgrade existing facilities in local park districts.
  • $45 million for broadband infrastructure grants to ensure all North Dakotans have high-speed data access that supports education, telehealth, government services and businesses. 
  • $10 million for deferred maintenance at state facilities.

The legislation includes several investments to address the state’s workforce shortage, which currently stands at 18,500 online job listings with Job Service North Dakota and an estimated 30,000-plus job openings statewide. These investments include:

  • $88 million in matching funds for private-sector investment in career centers where high school students can pursue high-demand careers in the trades, tech and other sectors.
  • $38 million for Bismarck State College to create a Polytechnic Center to help fill the specific needs of industry using hands-on applied learning.
  • $15 million for adding or expanding local workforce development incentive grants.
  • $5 million for technical skills training grants and a workforce innovation grant program.

Among the investments in economic development programs and energy projects are:

  • $20 million for hydrogen development grants as approved by the Clean Sustainable Energy Authority.
  • $21 million for an ethanol production grants.
  • $10 million to the Department of Commerce for autonomous agriculture matching grants.
  • $5 million for the North Dakota Development Fund.

Investments in health care and behavioral health include:

  • $25 million in financial assistance to long-term care facilities and the State Hospital.
  • $17 million for child care services, $5 million for Medicaid system upgrades, $4 million for community-based health care and $3 million for substance abuse disorder treatment vouchers.
  • $15 million for the North Dakota Department of Health to build a new Public Health Lab, with the department required to provide a plan for the building to the 2023 Legislature.
  • $3 million for the Free Through Recovery program.