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TJ Jerke, Forum News Service, Published April 09 2013

Senator wants funding for Oil Patch cities justified

BISMARCK – Sen. Dwight Cook said Tuesday that some funding was stripped out of a bill to help cities deal with effects of the oil boom, in part to get those cities to justify why they need the extra funding.

“There are many needs around the state; we need to make sure we have responsibility when we distribute this funding,” the Republican from Mandan said.

He added that some of the funding will likely be restored either by the Senate Appropriations Committee or during a conference committee.

Leaders from Minot, Dickinson and Watford City urged the Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday to drop the amendments made by the Senate Finance and Taxation Committee, which Cook chairs, to House Bill 1358 that reduced the amount of available funding for the oil counties from $376 million to $73 million.

Williston Mayor Ward Koeser was among the community leaders making their case Tuesday.

He said the city’s 2010 population was about 14,700 and the city is now serving about 38,000, but “it has not happened without substantial costs and demands.”

“There are good impacts and challenging impacts. We are just asking for your help with the challenging impacts,” Koeser told the committee. “... The burdens and responsibilities put on us are enormous. Reject the amendments to meet the challenges with us.”

The amendments took out money that was to come from the state’s gross production tax for specific uses. Cuts included:

•$6.2 million that would be used toward grants for emergency medical services;

•$240 million for road projects;

•$6 million for nursing homes;

•$10 million for critical- access hospitals.

Changes to the bill also shifted some funding from Oil Patch cities to county governments.

The original provided added funding for designated “hub cities.” The bill defines a hub city as a city with more than 12,500 people and 1 percent of its employees working in the oil or mining field. Funding increases with each percentage of its population working in the oil industry.

No action was taken by the committee.