WDAY: The News Leader

Published March 13, 2011, 01:30 PM

Lawmakers debate tax relief, funding higher education

Bismarck, ND (WDAY TV) - North Dakota lawmakers are debating how to use taxpayer money. Teri Finneman joins us from Bismarck with some of the biggest budget items.

By: Teri Finneman, WDAY

It’s no secret that the North Dakota Legislature has a lot of money to work with this session and everybody has a different idea of what to do with it. Tonight, we take a look at two major issues and the differing views between House Republicans and Democrats.

How much taxpayer money higher education should receive is a particular sticking point this session. The House agreed to increase the University System's budget for the next two years, but not at the level supporters had hoped.

STATE REPRESENTATIVE JEFF DELZER - (R) Underwood: “For the last couple sessions, we've increased higher ed really pretty strong in the neighborhood of 20 percent on ongoing expenditures each time. We have some concerns on some of how that has been spent.

STATE REPRESENTATIVE JERRY KELSH - (D) FULLERTON: “Probably the most egregious is when they removed the money for limiting tuition and then they took the $10 million out for equity.”

Tax relief is another huge money issue this session. The House has approved nearly $685 million in property tax relief over the next four years, but other proposals aimed at sales taxes and low-income families have failed.

STATE REPRESENTATIVE JERRY KELSH - (D) FULLERTON: “I figured, let's take a shot at dedicating the tax cuts to people that really need that tax cut.”

STATE REPRESENTATIVE JEFF DELZER - (R) Underwood: “We've increased the amount of reduction in personal income tax and corporate income tax, which affects all people.”

Now, nothing is final until the Legislature adjourns next month, of course. It's what makes the final weeks of the session so exciting.