The North Dakota Senate has passed a bill that would add a fund for university capital buildings to state law.

The Senate passed Senate Bill 2033 unanimously on Monday, Jan. 25. The bill would create a university system capital building fund in state law and would clear up some of the process for colleges and universities to get building and repair projects approved.

Historically, higher ed capital projects and extraordinary repair projects were requested individually with approval from the State Board of Higher Education then considered by legislators on a case-by-case basis for general fund appropriation, said Sen. Donald Schaible, R-Mott, during a floor session on Monday.

The Legislature previously created a similar fund during the last legislative session in 2019 that creates a funding mechanism that could be used for certain capital projects as well as extraordinary repair projects, determined by the institutions. In order to access dollars, schools would have to provide matching dollars from their operation budget or other sources, Schaible said.

SB 2033 would add that fund, which includes various tiers with various matching requirements, to state law.

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Schaible said there wasn’t any discussion about capping the fund, but noted that it might be a discussion in the future.

“I do believe there needs to be a cap on the fund,” Sen. Kyle Davison, R-Fargo, said. “We are allowing the State Board of (Higher) Education to determine where those dollars go on a priority list. I like the matching idea. I support the bill, but I think it is missing a cap on that fund.”

NDUS Chief Financial Officer Tammy Dolan said the bill mostly adds the fund to statute and makes some tweaks to the previous fund.

If the law is passed, it would clear some of the more cumbersome aspects of getting money allocated to capital projects, turning over more control to the State Board of Higher Education to determine which projects get approved. Though, Dolan noted that the Legislature would still play a hand if legislators want to specify dollars for specific projects.