Thursday, February 2, 2023 - 05:20pm

BISMARCK, N.D. – Gov. Doug Burgum today signed his first bill of the 2023 legislative session, providing a $68 million line of credit to help finance the construction of 13 planned career academies across the state where students can pursue high-demand careers in the trades, health care, technology and other sectors to help meet workforce needs. In his State of the State address on Jan. 3, Burgum called for this to be one of the first bills to reach his desk this session, and he expressed his gratitude for the decisive action by the 68th Legislative Assembly that ensures career academy construction can begin this spring.

During a special session of the Legislature in November 2021, lawmakers approved $88 million for career academies, including $20 million in state funds that have already been distributed and $68 million from the U.S. Treasury’s Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund. The State Board for Career and Technical Education awarded the $68 million to 13 career academy projects, which require a local dollar-for-dollar match, and several communities have already raised their matching funds. However, Treasury has yet to release the federal dollars, due to debate over funding criteria.

House Bill 1199 provides for a line of credit through the Bank of North Dakota (BND) to fulfill the state’s funding obligation for the career academies. If it’s later determined that the federal funding can’t be used for the career academies, a deficiency appropriation will be sought from the Legislature and the $68 million in federal funding will be redirected for other eligible uses.

Burgum signed HB 1199 at 5:01 p.m. CT today. The bill, sponsored by House Majority Leader Mike Lefor and Senate Majority Leader David Hogue, has an emergency clause making it effective immediately. Both chambers unanimously approved the bill.

“Establishing career academies across North Dakota is a critical piece of our comprehensive efforts to address the state’s workforce shortage,” Burgum said. “We are fortunate to have the resources available to honor the commitment made in 2021 and provide authority to borrow from the Bank of North Dakota to get these projects going and avoid delaying construction. We’re grateful to leaders Hogue and Lefor and every member of the Legislature for backing this important bill that will create new opportunities for our high school and college students and support economic growth.”

The bill also provides up to $2 million for the North Dakota Department of Career and Technical Education to pay accrued interest back to BND on the line of credit through June 30, 2025.

The bill also provides an additional $20 million to BND to meet demand for its PACE program through June 30, after BND already exhausted the $40 million appropriated for 2021-23 with six months remaining in the biennium. The PACE Fund helps communities expand their economic base by assisting primary sector businesses that make an investment or create jobs in their community.