- Associated Press - Thursday, February 19, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - House budget writers approved a $1.1 billion “surge funding” bill intended to fast-track money for highways and communities affected by North Dakota’s exploding growth, especially in the booming oil-producing region.

The amount approved Thursday by the House Appropriations Committee is $36.2 million less that Senate’s version approved last month. The committee reworked the bill to give less money to communities and more funds to the state Transportation Department for road projects.

The legislation includes $450 million in -funding for state highway projects. It includes $240 for the 10 biggest oil-producing counties; $112 million for non-oil-producing counties; $100 million for cities in oil-producing counties; and $198 million for other cities outside the oil patch.

The money is being hurried through the legislative process so projects can begin by summer.

Republican House Majority Leader Al Carlson of Fargo said the full House is expected to vote Friday on the bill. The Senate likely will review the changes on Monday and send it to Gov. Jack Dalrymple for signature, which could happen as early as Tuesday.

Senate and House legislative leaders from both parties met Thursday morning to discuss the funding bill.

“Both parties agree we need to address the impacts out west,” Carlson said.

Republicans have supermajorities in the Legislature, which has been playing catch-up for at least the three previous sessions to cope with North Dakota’s unprecedented growth.

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Mac Schneider of Grand Fork said he expects the bill to get strong support from all lawmakers.

“It’s a good, solid bill,” Schneider said.

The legislation depletes the state’s Strategic Investment and Improvements Fund, which is supported with oil and gas taxes. State Treasurer Kelly Schmidt said the fund’s balance at present is $964.3 million. The average monthly revenue deposited in the fund has been nearly $66 million during the current two-year budget cycle.

Schmidt said about $250 million will be transferred from the fund at the end of the budget cycle in July to pay the balance of the surge fund legislation.

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