BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple on Monday rejected a plea by Democrats for a special legislative session to address funding problems tied to western North Dakota's oil boom.
Dalrymple said in a statement that he's confident the state can provide the financial assistance needed to help communities affected by oil development until the Legislature convenes in January.
"Since 2011, the state has directly invested nearly $4 billion to help our oil and gas counties meet the needs that are part of rapid growth, and we know that we will need to do even more as we work to provide a comprehensive funding package during the next legislative session," Dalrymple said. He also said he made the decision after a series of meetings over the past few months with officials from communities impacted by oil development.
North Dakota's newfound oil riches have resulted in unprecedented demands for spending on roads, schools, public works, law enforcement and emergency medical services. The state's current two-year budget including federal aid is $14 billion — about $10 billion more than a decade ago. Dalrymple said the state will invest about $2.76 billion to support the state's oil patch region during the current two-year budget cycle, which is more than double the previous two-year funding package of $1.2 billion.
In a letter to Dalrymple in February, Democratic lawmakers said it's not enough and that additional funding can't wait for the start of the 2015 Legislature.
"If the present state funding levels do not change, many local leaders and residents fear that Western North Dakota may never catch up to the pace of oil and gas development," they wrote. The letter was signed by Senate Democratic Minority Leader Mac Schneider of Grand Forks, House Minority Leader Kenton Onstad of Parshall and Sen. John Warner of Ryder.
Schneider said Dalrymple called him Monday to say there would be no special session.
"I told the governor I appreciated his call but I disagreed with his decision," Schneider said.
Democrats wanted to revamp a formula used to distribute the state's oil and gas production tax revenue. The fund currently sets aside 75 percent to the state and 25 percent to local governments, and Democrats have pushed for a split of at least 60-40 in favor of local governments.
Dalrymple's statement said the state should consider changing the revenue distribution formula but the "work should be done during the regular legislative session when the issue can get the attention it requires."
Nearly $1 billion in state appropriations remain to be distributed throughout western North Dakota's oil and gas counties in the next 14 months, Dalrymple said.
Dalrymple last called a special session in 2011 during which lawmakers endorsed $30 million in public works grants for local governments whose infrastructure is strained by oil development and about $700,000 to hire four new Highway Patrol officers to monitor western North Dakota's oil traffic.