North Dakota legislators discuss bonding proposal

State legislators laid out a proposal today for a massive bonding program that would fund infrastructure and economic development projects across the state. The program, which would be funded by Legacy Fund earnings and managed by the Bank of North Dakota, includes funding for water projects, a carbon capture project, an ag development center, and the State Hospital, in addition to infrastructure dollars for counties and cities.

Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, who has worked on the bill since last summer, said now is the time for bonding. “These are projects the state has committed to funding. Interest rates for bonding are at an all-time low while construction inflation is high, so these projects will cost more in the future if we delay them. Using Legacy Fund earnings now to move these projects toward completion will help jump start the economy and keep jobs in North Dakota while saving money in the long run.”

A consistent stream of funds from the Legacy Fund would flow into the Bank of North Dakota for designated projects. BND will hold the bonds, which will then be available to various agencies to access for approved projects. The proposal includes a $170.9 million “gap” bond to cover city and county infrastructure projects that would have been funded by oil and gas tax revenue, but due to the downturn in the oil industry will not have sufficient funds.

“This is one-time funding that invests Legacy Fund earnings right here in North Dakota. It creates jobs now and in the future through career and technical training while also taking pressure off of property taxes, which is crucial to helping our communities through this pandemic and economic downturn,“ said the bill’s prime sponsor Representative Todd Porter (R-Mandan). “There is no burden on the taxpayer with this proposal. The bonds are wholly funded by Legacy Fund earnings, which are taken as a percent of market value. The principal will not be touched.”

“There are needs throughout the state for roads, bridges, flood, and water infrastructure. The carbon capture and ag research projects support our largest industries and will support continued development that will in turn bring revenue back to the state,” said Majority Leader Wardner.

The bill will be filed this week and includes bi-partisan sponsors from across the state.