Posted 12/31/12 (Mon)
By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer
The 63rd Legislative Session is about to begin and Rep. David Drovdal is gearing up for it. According to Drovdal, the issues can be summed up in three words, money, money and money.
“Everyone wants it, but there isn’t enough to go around,” states Drovdal, whose tone has changed since the start of the last Legislative Assembly.
In 2011, Drovdal approached the start of the 62nd Legislative Assembly with a positive outlook for McKenzie County and its entities. However, the past two years held a lot of unknowns and unforeseens, which is why Drovdal expects this go-round to be much more difficult.
“This time around, the county isn’t in as bad of a condition financially, though it still needs financial help,” states Drovdal. “But schools, emergency services, hospitals and the highways are also all in need of money and impact aid from the state.”
Drovdal states that the Legislative Assembly will address the fact that western North Dakota’s emergency services have the equipment they need, but the people that volunteer their time are getting burned out. Additionally, oil-impacted hospital systems are finding themselves stressed out and in debt.
As Dan Kelly, McKenzie County Healthcare Systems CEO, stated at the Legislative Forum earlier in December, “Right now our health care facility is physically taxed, as are the facilities all over oil-impacted counties. Our facility was built during a time when we saw 15 emergency room visits a month; now we are seeing over 500. We are looking at needing to build a new facility at a time when we are financially hurting.”
Drovdal states that the Legislative Assembly will be discussing how to solve these problems, as well as finding funds to solve McKenzie County’s highway and bypass issues and provide schools the funds they need.
Drovdal also sees property taxes as being one issue that will be a heated topic in the 63rd Legislative session.
According to Drovdal, Gov. Dalrymple wants to reduce property taxes across the state for two reasons. One is that it promotes business, which is good for North Dakota’s economy. Two, it puts more money back into the hands of North Dakota residents, which benefits them.
The problem with the governor’s plan, according to Drovdal, lies in the fact that at the start of the last session, Gov. Dalrymple had the same goal. But it didn’t work out the way the state and local entities hoped it would, noted Drovdal.
“Schools are the biggest recipient of property taxes and the number one reason property taxes are what they are,” Drovdal states. “Four years ago the state bought down mills in hopes of lowering property taxes. But even though we did that, property taxes still went up. And in some cases, schools didn’t get what they needed.”
The problem, according to Drovdal, was partly due to the unexpected rise in enrollment in booming western North Dakota communities. And in part due to an unexpected rise in property valuations.
Whatever the reasons, Drovdal states that in this Legislative session, representatives want to fix the problem so that property taxes can remain lower and the entities that benefit from property taxes can get what they need.
“There is no clear answer, but it hasn’t been working so it will be a hot issue to come up with a plan that works for everyone,” states Drovdal.
Other topics for discussion will center around college funding, land owner issues, finding a way to lower income taxes and dealing with the impending fiscal cliff.
“The money we found for everyone last session wound up not being enough. But no one knew that would be the case. A lot of things have happened in the last two years that we aren’t used to, and it has been nerve-racking. But there is really no one to blame,” states Drovdal, who highly credits the local law enforcement and local leaders for dealing so well with the incidents they have been presented with over the last two years.
Drovdal states that in these next two years he will serve on the Transportation Committee so he can better help solve the issues of making U.S. Highway 85 into a four-lane highway with turning lanes.
Drovdal states that he will also serve on the Finance and Tax Committee, while Rep. Kempenich and State Sen. Bowman will serve on the Appropriations Committees.
According to Drovdal, North Dakota prides itself on wanting its citizens to know what is going on at the state level. That is why this year, each Chamber’s sessions will be held live on the internet, so people can keep up with what their representatives are doing.
The 63rd Legislative Session begins on Jan. 8 and will meet for 80 days. Anyone who wants to get in contact with their representative is encouraged to send them an e-mail. The e-mail for Rep. Drovdal is firstname.lastname@example.org.