N.D. Water Commission gets new workers

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Farm Forum

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) – The North Dakota Legislature’s Budget Section has approved five new employees for the State Water Commission, despite questions over the funding source and whether the matter should go before the full Legislature.

The Budget Section, a committee that includes state House and Senate budget writers, approved the workers with a 22-12 vote on June 25 at the recommendation of the state Emergency Commission, which reviews emergency state spending requests between sessions of the Legislature.

The $546,000 to hire the employees will come from a state oil-tax trust fund that provides money for water projects and energy conservation programs, The Bismarck Tribune reported.

Rep. Larry Bellew, R-Minot, questioned tapping the Resources Trust Fund, citing a state report outlining its authorized uses.

“There’s nothing in there about hiring new people,” he said.

Rep. Jeff Delzer, R-Underwood, a member of the Emergency Commission, said the request was difficult for the group to deal with. He said: “The real question is, should the Emergency Commission and Budget Section be able to be a mini-Legislature” and approve full-time employees?

Sheila Peterson, director of the Office of Management and Budget’s Fiscal Management Division, said the Water Commission’s workload has been increasing due to spiking demand for agricultural and industrial permits.

“The backlog has grown and grown,” Peterson said. “The last couple of years have been quite phenomenal.”

Sen. Larry Robinson, D-Valley City, said the state is seeing more demand for services and staff, while the Legislature continues to meet only every two years.

Commission member Rep. Al Carlson, R-Fargo, said he supported the request but added “we need to have more foresight.”