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ND Dems want special session to address oil impact

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 24, 2014 at 2:02 pm •  Published: February 24, 2014

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Gov. Jack Dalrymple should call a special session of the Legislature to address funding problems tied to western North Dakota's oil boom, some Democratic lawmakers say.

In a letter to Dalrymple on Monday, the lawmakers said the additional funding can't wait for the start of the 2015 Legislature in January.

"The affected western counties do not think that the current funding level is adequate to meet the demand for services they are facing," the letter says. "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. "

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, or about $10 billion more than a decade ago.

The Republican governor was attending a national energy conference in Washington, D.C., on Monday.

"The governor has an open mind," Dalrymple spokesman Jeff Zent said.

Zent said Dalrymple "intends to talk with legislators from both parties about what can be accomplished for oil country in the short term, whether it is administratively or through legislative action."

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. Onstad and Warner's districts are in western North Dakota.

Onstad told The Associated Press that he and other Democrats want 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.

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