BISMARCK – If there’s one loser amid the state’s huge government spending spree, it’s Job Service North Dakota.
The state’s portal for job openings, unemployment insurance and labor market information is one of just a handful of state agencies whose general fund appropriations have dropped in the past decade.
What little state money the agency receives is generally earmarked for workforce training or technology upgrades. It’s always been an agency that depends on federal funding, former executive director Maren Daley said. Daley left the post in late October after more than 10 years on the job.
Combined with stagnant and sometimes decreasing federal funding, it’s put Job Service in a tough spot. Since 2001, the agency has shed more than 100 full-time equivalent employees – between 10 and 40 a year, Daley said.
“I think the challenge there is … that we’ve traditionally been federally funded. Legislators are reluctant to step in and pick up that burden,” Daley said.
As North Dakota’s economic growth has brought jobseekers, Job Service’s workload has increased. With the lowest unemployment rate in the nation – 3 percent in August, according to the agency – the struggle is unique.
“We’ve got the demand, we’re a little short on supply,” Daley said.
Daley said there have been some discussions about asking the state to step in and help more with funding.
“Is there a defined breaking point? No. It’s a progression,” she said.
On paper, just two other agencies will receive less in state general fund dollars this biennium than they did in 2001. But both come with large caveats.
• The Bank of North Dakota no longer receives general fund appropriations because it operates on its own profits.
• The State Water Commission’s funding was shifted to use a dedicated special fund rather than the state’s general fund.
For an interactive look at North Dakota’s government spending click here.
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