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Published January 03, 2011, 09:51 PM

Local Lawmakers Ready For New Legislative Session

Area representatives say they are excited to start the new session with the State of North Dakota in a good spot financially. As the North Dakota legislative session starts Tuesday in Bismarck, lawmakers have a long list of priorities.

Governor Jack Dalrymple is set to deliver his first State of the State address Tuesday afternoon at the state Capitol.

Local lawmakers are also getting ready for the new legislative session.

Area representatives say they are excited to start the new session with the State of North Dakota in a good spot financially.

As the North Dakota legislative session starts Tuesday in Bismarck, lawmakers have a long list of priorities.

"Our budget surplus and funding our priorities are going to be some of the top issues for this session," District 42 Republican Stacey Dahl said.

Lawmakers have plenty of suggestions about spending the state's $1 billion surplus. Big issues include flood control projects like Devils Lake and the Red River diversion, and road repairs because of flooding and worn roads in oil-producing counties. All are things Dahl says can be done while controlling spending.

"I want to make sure we fund our priority well, maintaining fiscal responsibility. So we need to make those improvements to our roads and universities and schools. But we don't over-extend ourselves," Dahl said.

"The governor identifies $350 million in direct property tax relief. I think that's going to be something that receives wide bi-partisan support," District 42 Democrat Mac Schneider said.

Governor Dalrymple also proposes a small cut in North Dakota's income tax rates, and money for medical benefits for lower-income residents. Legislators will hear Dalrymple's State of the State address after the assembly Tuesday and will sit through two other speeches this week as well. But they are anxious to get to work.

"Maintaining college affordability is critically important to the people that I represent. That's something my colleagues and I from District 42 had done on a bi-partisan basis last session and we're doing the same thing this time around," Schneider said.

Legislators will hear two more speeches this week, one on Wednesday and one on Thursday.

The session will last until April.

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