Posted 5/18/11 (Wed)
By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer
Oil and gas, water, and of course, money, along with many other issues were discussed during the 62nd session of the North Dakota Legislature, and it turned out to be a good session for western North Dakota.
“The west came out as good as asked for and maybe even a little better,” says David Drovdal, Speaker of the House and District 39 representative. “Not everything came out exactly like we wanted, but overall it was a good session for all of North Dakota.”
McKenzie County like other counties in western North Dakota has been hit hard by the oil industry, so they went into this legislative session looking for help. The main focuses were infrastructure, roads and water.
“Gov. Dalrymple’s budget had money for cities and roads, but it took some convincing to get the money for water,” says Drovdal. “Everyone knew that we needed to provide money for the WAWS project, but it took a little convincing to get it done.”
Representatives from the west, including the McKenzie County Commissioners and area business owners, made sure that the Legislature heard their needs, and it paid off in the long run.
“Legislators knew what was happening in the west because the entire state is benefiting from the oil,” adds Drovdal. “However, the meetings set up in the west gave the representatives a chance to see and hear first-hand what is happening in the area.”
Although the Legislature approved more money for roads, Drovdal is certain it will not be enough to fix the problems.
“I was asked if this would be enough to fix our roads and I told them no,” comments Drovdal. “We gave more money to cities and counties for roads and put the most money ever into state highway funds. But it’s not to fix the roads, it is simply to maintain the roads. We won’t be able to permanently fix anything until the oil field slows down. It is just that simple. But now we have the funds needed to try and keep up with the roads.”
The session also issued a tax break that will affect all North Dakotans.
“The only one not getting a tax break is the oil industry,” says Drovdal. “Income taxes went down 30 percent for individuals, 20 percent for business owners and seven percent for financial institutions. In addition to those tax breaks, we are putting more money into the property tax fund, so if your property taxes go up, it’s not because of the Legislature.”
Although it was a great session, every bill didn’t work out the way that Drovdal was hoping for.
“I really wish we could have gotten more rights for surface owners,” says Drovdal. “There was a bill for land-owners that passed. But I was disappointed because it really didn’t give them any more rights than what they already have.”
Overall, Drovdal was pleased with the 62nd session.
“We are one of the few states in the black. We are growing, have a good business climate, good water and clean air,” says Droivdal. “I think those are all good things and we should be proud to be a part of them.”