North Dakota Lawmaker Proposes Robotic Automation Tax Break

The start of the 2019 legislative session came with a proposal to bolster the manufacturing industry and automated processes. Rep. Vicky Steiner’s proposal would cost the state $2 million, but could have a federal match of $8 million.

by Brandon Summers, Dickinson Press / January 10, 2019
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(TNS) — The North Dakota Legislature has begun its 2019 session.

Rep. Vicky Steiner, District 37, joined her fellow legislators Monday in submitting several bills for consideration.

"We have a limit on how many bills we can put in starting tomorrow," she said, "so I'm getting signatures on some of my bills."

Steiner said this legislative session promises to be "fascinating."

Among her efforts, Steiner is proposing a robotic automated tax credit.

The cost would be $2 million and would go to assist automation statewide.

"They've had this before," she said. "They would get a credit towards purchasing new robotic equipment and manufacturing equipment."

The new bill does not threaten the status of current employees, Steiner said.

"They must maintain their employee base," she said, "but it can raise the standard and safety for their current employees."

The tax credit would benefit manufacturing in Dickinson.

"With the workforce crisis and shortage we have, this would help them to stay competitive," she said. "It is certainly something that could benefit companies like Baker Boy."

Steiner also wants to establish a marine passenger car ferry to provide summer service, from May to November, from Twin Buttes to Parshall and back.

"It would be another way for people to cross the river, and it would improve safety," she said. "You don't have to drive Highway 22 or 23 during high oil field truck times. You could take an alternate route."

The project would cost an estimated $18 million.

A possible $8 million match in federal funds exists, Steiner said, and the state could come up with the rest through the strategic investment infrastructure fund.

Steiner is also preparing a bill for an energy study into the future, focusing on what markets will look like for North Dakota's natural resources in 2040, 2045 and 2050.

"Is there still a natural gas market? Are people going to more renewables?" she said. "If we have lost some markets for coal, how else can we use our 800-year supply of lignites?"

The state budget remains an area of contention for legislation.

"[Gov. Doug Burgum] has different ideas about how to do the budget process," Steiner said. "We normally have certain funds we use for certain things. He's trying to move things more into the general fund, and I'm not sure there's complete agreement if that's the way we want to go yet."

She added, "We're still going to be discussing what the governor proposed and some of the ideas that we have."

Steiner described it as the start of the "sausage-making" process.

"We're just starting to put the meat into the grinder," she said. "We have a lot of choices to make."

©2019 the Dickinson Press (Dickinson, N.D.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.