N.D. politicians spar over $13 million cut in federal road funding

Forum Communications correspondent Teri Finneman had an article Wednesday about an interesting development in a bill that was passed recently after the U.S. House was reconvened for a special session.

North Dakota Republicans went after Democrats on Wednesday, calling the Dems hypocritical for “not taking road funding seriously when Democrats in Congress voted to cut funding to North Dakota highways last week,” Finneman wrote. That attack prompted state Democrats to say the Republicans “are trying to pull the wool over your eyes.”

Here’s part of Finneman’s article:

Republicans had news conferences in Bismarck and Minot on Wednesday to discuss the issue.

Sen. Dwight Cook, R-Mandan, said federal Democrats voted to cut funding to North Dakota highways as part of the $26.1 billion state budget bailout package. The state Department of Transportation has found North Dakota will lose $13.6 million in roads funding as a result of the legislation, Cook said.

“For the Democratic delegation to vote to cut funding for highways just weeks after Democrats accused the governor of not taking the issue seriously is frankly hypocritical,” Cook said.

Cook was referring to the call by state Democrats for a special session to address infrastructure needs in western North Dakota’s oil country.

Assistant House Minority Leader Kenton Onstad, D-Parshall, was among the legislators who wanted a special session.

In a news release, he said the federal aid bill brought $51 million to North Dakota: $29 million in Medicaid funding and $22 million in education funding.

Onstad also said the funds referred to by Cook are not in actual projects, but for contract authority, which allows a federal agency to budget money before having the funds in hand.

The North Dakota Department of Transportation has more contract authority than actual funds, so a reduction in contract authority does not mean a loss in funding, the Democrats said.

“It is less than honest for Senator Cook to suggest that this is a loss of federal money to the state of North Dakota, when in fact, the state has been receiving record levels of federal funds to build and repair its roads, like four-laning U.S. 2,” Onstad said in a statement.

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