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- Paul Tripp


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Volunteers furnished with maps, bug spray and bottled water were searching areas near the Red River in north Fargo Friday....

     FARGO, N.D. (AP) - Volunteers furnished with maps, bug spray and bottled water were searching areas near the Red River in north Fargo Friday after family and friends of Savanna Greywind organized a search for the 22-year-old, who was eight months pregnant when she went missing.
     The quest to find Greywind has intensified since police found a newborn baby Thursday and arrested two suspects for kidnapping. Greywind was eight months pregnant when she disappeared. The suspects indicated to police that the infant was Greywind's, but would not answer questions about Greywind's whereabouts.
     The search included dozens of people who came from the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation, where Greywind is an enrolled member. Stuart LaFountain, a member of the tribal board, is asking people to "look into their hearts" and help find Greywind.

    BISMARCK, N.D. - Gov. Doug Burgum announced Friday that the state's general fund ended the 2015-17 budget cycle with about $66 million more than projected, but he cautioned budgeting for next biennium will be tight unless revenues significantly improve.

    The 2015-17 biennium ended June 30 with $97.2 million in the general fund, versus an ending fund balance of $30.8 million that was projected when the Legislature adjourned in late April. Of the $97.2 million, $65 million remains in the general fund and the remaining $32.2 million was transferred to the Budget Stabilization Fund as required by state law.

    "Our cabinet leaders and agencies did a commendable job of ratcheting back spending, making judicious staffing decisions and tightly managing their overall budgets. Their hard work leaves us better positioned for the future," Burgum said. "Still, unless tax revenues rebound significantly, the state will have very little cushion heading into the budgeting process for the 2019-21 biennium. It's essential we continue to take a conservative approach to spending and staffing and focus on reinventing government to make it more efficient and responsive."

    Among the factors that contributed to the higher ending fund balance were June revenue collections that came in $28 million above the projection for that month.

    In addition, money turned back from agencies to the general fund totaled $97.8 million, or $39.5 million more than estimated. The largest turnback amounts were $37.1 million from the Department of Public Instruction, which experienced lower enrollment growth than projected, and $27.3 million from the Department of Human Services, which spent less on Medicaid than expected and achieved savings by holding vacant positions open.

    The $4.3 billion general fund budget approved for the current 2017-19 biennium represented a more than 28 percent decrease from the 2015-17 budget.

    During the 2015-17 cycle, $572.5 million was drained from the Budget Stabilization Fund to offset revenue shortfalls and help balance the budget, and other reserves were tapped as well. Heading into 2017-19, the Budget Stabilization Fund has a balance of only $38.3 million.

    The $65 million ending balance for the general fund, which becomes the beginning balance for the 2017-19 biennium, compares to a beginning balance of $729 million in the 2015-17 biennium.

    "With the 2015-17 beginning balance of $729 million and the $572.5 million Budget Stabilization Fund, the state entered last biennium with a substantial cushion that won't be available next time around, highlighting the need to be cautious on spending," Burgum said.

    "While we were fortunate to end the 2015-17 cycle on a positive note, we still must be prepared for another challenging budgeting process for next biennium," said Pam Sharp, director of the Office of Management and Budget. "It's encouraging that we are beginning to replenish the Budget Stabilization Fund, and our balance sheet remains strong."


     BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - The State Water Commission is adding $500,000 to North Dakota's Drought Disaster Livestock Water Supply cost-share program. To date, nearly $1.4 million has been allocated to the program. The commission says the $825,000 that was previously approved has already been committed to 268 projects for 195 applicants.

    The money can be used for a variety of projects, including new water wells. The U.S. Drought Monitor says some ranchers are being forced to drill new water wells, with their existing wells drying up.

    The latest Drought Monitor map shows 63 percent of the state in some form of drought, with 22 percent in extreme or exceptional drought, the two worst categories.


    ST. MICHAEL, N.D. - Gov. Doug Burgum met with Spirit Lake Nation leaders Friday in St. Michael as part of ongoing engagement with Native American tribes across North Dakota.

    The governor, along with more than a dozen cabinet officials and staff members, met with tribal council members and other leaders to identify areas of opportunity for government-to-government collaboration on issues including transportation, the environment, law enforcement, infrastructure, tribal courts, addiction and social services issues.

    The daylong meetings included an opening prayer by a Spirit Lake elder and a presentation by the Lake Region Drum Group. The meetings were followed by tours of the Sioux Manufacturing Corp. plant and the Spirit Lake Nation's new Head Start facility.

    "We have an opportunity to listen, learn and engage with tribal leaders on a range of issues that are unique to their economy, geography and culture," Burgum said. "We look forward to continued engagement to build relationships and move toward increased collaboration based on mutual respect and understanding."

    Burgum has been meeting with tribal leaders in advance of the first meeting of the new interim Tribal Taxation Issues Committee, set for Aug. 31 in Bismarck. The committee is chaired by Burgum and includes state legislative leaders from both parties, as well as Indian Affairs Commission Executive Director Scott Davis, Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger and Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford. It's the first time an interim committee on tribal relations has included both legislative leadership and the governor.


     BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - The company that built the Dakota Access pipeline has responded to an offer by North Dakota regulators to settle state allegations that it improperly reported the discovery of American Indian artifacts during construction. But the response from Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners isn't being disclosed yet. A member of the Public Service Commission says the agency will meet Monday to discuss the response.


   (Copyright 2017 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)


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