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Published December 09 2010

Budget plan gets positive reviews

BISMARCK – Republicans and Democrats gave overall favorable reviews to Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s first budget address Wednesday, though both sides say there are areas for improvement.

Senate Minority Leader Ryan Taylor of Towner said the budget is generally favorable to Democratic-NPL ideals and for Republican moderates. He sees the governor’s office having issues with conservative Republicans resisting the cost of some of the initiatives.

Taylor was pleased with the push for continued property tax relief, increased education funding and additional funding for infrastructure needs in the oil and gas producing counties.

However, he said there are lapses in the budget when it comes to health care for children and improvements in financial aid for college students. Taylor also said they would need to look at the proposed salary increases for public employees and whether they’re competitive.

“But we really look forward to working with the governor,” Taylor said. “We think we can be an ally on a number of these initiatives as they move forward.”

House Minority Leader Jerry Kelsh, D-Fullerton, said he wants to see tax relief prioritized “a bit” differently, such as sales tax reductions in certain areas or eliminating income taxes up to a certain level of income.

Kelsh also thinks further property tax reductions may have been in order.

He and Assistant Senate Minority Leader Mac Schneider of Grand Forks said they would like to see funding for pre-kindergarten. Schneider was also disappointed that funding wasn’t included for the University of North Dakota’s medical school.

Sen. Ray Holmberg, R-Grand Forks, who is chairman of Senate Appropriations, said he likes that ongoing general fund revenues are higher than ongoing spending.

Rep. Shirley Meyer, D-Dickinson, said she is “very thrilled” with the funding proposed for infrastructure needs in western North Dakota.

“This gave me hope that at least we got the message out there (of the needs),” she said.

House Majority Leader Al Carlson of Fargo called the executive budget “a good start.” Lawmakers have priorities as well, so it remains to be seen how they’re going to match with the governor’s recommendations, he said.

Lawmakers return to work in early January to begin the 2011 legislative session.

Finneman is a multimedia reporter for Forum Communications Co.