Senate committee approves revised Commerce budget, child care debated
BISMARCK -- Funding for Centers of Excellence, an energy director and American Indian businesses is back in the Commerce Department budget. The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved its version of the budget, which has $7.9 million more th...
BISMARCK -- Funding for Centers of Excellence, an energy director and American Indian businesses is back in the Commerce Department budget.
The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved its version of the budget, which has $7.9 million more than the House version.
One-time funding of $13 million is back for the Centers of Excellence grant program. The bill also includes $150,000 for an electronic portfolio pilot program at Valley City State University and the North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton.
The multimedia website would allow students to showcase their education and skills to potential employers
The Senate version of House Bill 1018 also allocates $243,549 for an energy director and $100,000 for associated operating expenses for the next two years. Another $100,000 is restored for the American Indian Business Development Office.
In addition, $50,000 is provided for the North Dakota Economic Development Foundation 2020 and Beyond initiative. Private and public officials would study successful models for creating economic growth in other states and countries to see if they could be applied here.
The committee would also evaluate the effectiveness of programs and investments in the state designed to develop the state's workforce and to attract and retain businesses. Another goal is to consider what new investments in infrastructure and changes to taxes and regulations could be made to increase the state's standing as a business-friendly state.
Senate Appropriations also asks for a legislative study of the development of a reliable means of estimating the effect of future population growth on state and local government revenues.
It also seeks a study of methods to encourage reduction or restrict allowance of flaring of natural gas.
The bill removes $1 million for tourism infrastructure grants. It also reduces funding for child care service provider recruitment, training and retention grants from the $5 million added by the House to $250,000.
The child care move sparked opposition from some senators. Sen. Larry Robinson, D-Valley City, wanted to keep the $5 million funding level to address child care needs.
"It's a statewide problem and the west in particular is in really a crunch time," he said.
Robinson said lack of child care is a workforce development issue. Families are seeking quality, affordable and accessible child care and the ability to grow jobs in North Dakota will be curtailed without it, he said.
Sen. Randy Christmann, R-Hazen, said legislators need to spend $4.5 million less someplace else if they want to add $4.5 million for child care grants.
"We're not printing this money. You buy this thing that means you do without something else," he said.
Sen. Tony Grindberg, R-Fargo, said the $5 million was not included in the governor's recommended Commerce budget.
There is an additional $250,000 allocated for loan assistance to early childhood facilities in the Commerce budget, he said. There is also $100,000 for grants for technical assistance, a business plan or infrastructure.
The Senate's version of the Commerce budget is $45.5 million, compared to the House version of $37.6 million. The governor's recommendation was $46.1 million.
Grindberg said the Senate's version is a 1.5 percent decrease in ongoing funding from the 2009-11 biennium.
The bill will now go to the full Senate for a vote. If the House disagrees with the changes, the bill will go to a conference committee to work out the differences between the House and Senate versions.
Finneman is a multimedia reporter for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Herald.