BISMARCK – A united delegation from Grand Forks has a history of bringing results back home, say Grand Forks lawmakers.
“Almost all legislators for years, if not decades, from Grand Forks have pulled in the same general direction because we know how important it is for a unified voice in Bismarck to deliver results back home in Grand Forks,” said Rep. Corey Mock, D-Grand Forks.
During the 2023 legislative session, the Grand Forks delegation hopes to continue this trend. Though the rest of the legislative session will include critical conversations about funding across the state, Grand Forks lawmakers are hopeful funding on priorities like infrastructure, career and technical education funding and UND will come through.
“Grand Forks is lucky we have a good delegation that works very well together from both sides of the aisle and works hard to get what we need to get done,” said Rep. Emily O’Brien, R-Grand Forks.
The Red River Valley Water Supply Project was identified as a
top priority by the Grand Forks City Council Legislative Committee
this session. The project is designed to an provide emergency water supply to central and eastern North Dakota during times of water scarcity, according to the project’s website. The Garrison Diversion Conservancy District, which is the state lead on the project, requested $225 million in funding for the project for the 2023-25 biennium.
Senate Bill 2020, the Department of Water Resources budget bill, would provide $175 million for the Red River Water Supply Project in the 2023-25 biennium as it was introduced in the House.
“There’s significant money in the budget to move that forward on a pretty significant basis. … But I think that’s pretty good,” said Rep. Mark Sanford, R-Grand Forks.
Funding for Grand Forks transportation infrastructure projects, like the proposed DeMers Avenue/42nd Street railroad underpass and an interstate interchange at 47th Avenue, could come out of a $115 million state flexible transportation fund, proposed in House Bill 1012, the Department of Transportation bill, said Mock.
Rep. Landon Bahl, R-Grand Forks, said those projects are long overdue in Grand Forks.
“If we can get those past the finish line, I think that’s long overdue and something every person in the city of Grand Forks will like,” said Bahl.
Funding for career and technical education projects across the state, including the $10 million Career Impact Academy planned for Grand Forks, was a priority for legislators across the state. There already has already been action on the funding — releasing state dollars to the communities — and more funding could be on the way, said Sen. Curt Kreun, R-Grand Forks.
Across North Dakota, 13 CTE projects are awaiting a combined $68.2 million in ARPA funds, which have yet to be released by the federal government. The first bill of the session signed by Gov. Doug Burgum authorized the Bank of North Dakota to provide a $68.2 million line of credit to CTE centers waiting for federal funding, allowing the projects to move forward despite the delay at the federal level. Now, the Human Resources Division of the Senate Appropriations Committee is considering funding to make up for increased project costs due to inflation.
“That’s extremely important right now. The CTE programs are blossoming to a high degree, and we’re finally realizing that these professions are our professions – they aren’t just construction jobs,” said Kreun. “Everything is technical nowadays.”
While not specific to Grand Forks, funding for child care statewide will help families in Grand Forks, said Rep. Zac Ista, D-Grand Forks.
“That’s been a huge issue in Grand Forks – really one of the keys to our workforce retention and recruitment crisis is making sure we have enough available and affordable child care for families,” said Ista.
Standalone child care bills were defeated in the House, but the Health and Human Services Budget does contain funding for child care. O’Brien sits on the Human Services Division of the House Appropriations Committee and says it is considering $72 million for child care programs across the state.
UND has requested more than $360 million from the Legislature, including $189 million for operations, $121 million for capital projects and $45 million for its
. Kreun said Senate Appropriations is still working to finalize the budget for UND and the North Dakota University System.
The remainder of the session will focus on cutting down budget requests made in the first half of the session, said Mock.
“There was this reality, this wake up call, that what we’ve appropriated does not align with where the numbers really are and now we’re going to have to make some very difficult decisions,” said Mock.
Grand Forks lawmakers say building connections and informing the rest of the state about Grand Forks’ needs will help prioritize Grand Forks through the rest of the session.
“Just like anything, it’s consensus building – it’s working both the chambers, both the Senate and the House, letting them know how this not only benefits Grand Forks, but how it can benefit the rest of the state,” said Sen. Scott Meyer, R-Grand Forks.