GOP Plan Seeks $800 Million for North Dakota Infrastructure

In boomtown North Dakota, where population growth and job creation have outpaced infrastructure development, a one-time spending plan might be the ticket.
GOP Plan Seeks $800 Million for North Dakota Infrastructure
In North Dakota, the GOP has proposed a one-time $800 million spending plan to improve Bakken-area infrastructure.

As the nation’s No. 2 oil producer behind Texas, North Dakota has seen its share of oil boom benefits. But with stratospheric growth in the oil sector also comes a huge influx of workers and families and, often, not enough resources outside the oilfields to serve them.

In an oversimplified but bleak reality, schools are overcrowded; housing is insufficient; roads are clogged with traffic; and emergency services struggle to keep up with the demands of a growing and diverse populace.

According to one Associated Press account, “The pace of development has proven too much for infrastructure.” To address those needs, in early October, North Dakota Republicans unveiled an $800 million one-time spending plan.

Fox Business Online notes the money for the GOP proposal will come from the state’s Strategic Investment and Improvement Fund, funded in part with oil and gas taxes. Currently, North Dakota gets 75 percent of the state’s oil and gas production tax revenue. The GOP plan aims to redistribute that amount to both state and local governments.

When the legislature meets in January, the plan will hopefully be fast tracked, according to Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner. “We want these skilled people to stay and invest in North Dakota,” notes Wardner on Fox Business Online.

The proposal includes $475 million to oil-producing counties and cities; $140 million to the cities of Williston, Dickinson and Minot (where oil activity is centered); $35 million to county schools affected by oil development; and $150 million for road projects.

The Bakken Shale region of North Dakota has been one of the most successful regions for oil exploration and extraction. According to 24/7WallSt.com, in the two years ending in 2012, the state added nearly 25 million barrels of proven reserves from new oil fields and more than 1.6 billion barrels of reserves from current drilling operations. From 2003 to 2013, oil production in North Dakota exploded by nearly 1,000 percent. 

Some experts believe infrastructure is steadily improving. However, the region has been developing so quickly it has taken the infrastructure of the surrounding region some time to catch up.

Ingrid Pan, senior energy analyst with MarketRealist.com, said in a GOMC article earlier this year (See “3 Eye-Opening Reasons to Buy Into the Bakken”) that in terms of building roads and creating housing and other amenities, “It’s getting better. It’s still in the process of rapidly trying to catch up. These things are constantly evolving.”

Local businesses, such as fast food restaurants, are offering jobs at $11 to $15 per hour plus signing bonuses to attract workers. Still, although the area might be ripe for jobs in some venues, Pan admits the region is still “having trouble attracting people … it’s in the middle of North Dakota. It’s not attractive for all people.”

Both Democrats and Republicans agree funding is needed to support the area. The political tug-of-war, however, relates to amount with Democrats claiming the GOP spending plan isn’t sufficient.

Democratic State Senator Connie Triplett told the Associated Press the legislature must prepare for the future.

“We need to find a way to make [funding] permanent so we’re not changing up the formula every time, we’re not using one-time funds every time.”



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