State agencies with unfinished budgets can operate through 2017
BISMARCK -- Two state agencies whose budgets were left unfinished when the state Legislature adjourned April 29 can operate through the next biennium even if lawmakers don't reconvene to approve their appropriations, Attorney General Wayne Steneh...
BISMARCK -- Two state agencies whose budgets were left unfinished when the state Legislature adjourned April 29 can operate through the next biennium even if lawmakers don't reconvene to approve their appropriations, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said in an opinion Thursday.
Stenehjem's opinion said the agencies can operate under their existing budget authority, but must be careful not to exceed that authority.
Officials from the North Dakota Public Employees Retirement System and state Retirement and Investment Office requested the opinion after House and Senate lawmakers failed to reach agreement on the appropriations bill for the two agencies and adjourned without passing it.
The 2015-17 biennium begins July 1 for the two agencies, which are charged with managing, investing and processing more than $10.5 billion in funds on behalf of the state, political subdivisions and public employees.
Stenehjem wrote that the continuing appropriation authority granted to the agencies, combined with their legal obligations as fiduciaries over the plans they administer, "carry with them the implied authority to expend funds for the salaries and associated operating expenses of the individuals needed to effectuate those appropriations in order to fulfill their fiduciary obligations."
However, that authority is "strictly limited," Stenehjem noted, adding that by law "the boards must limit staffing and operating expenses to levels that do not exceed those which are required to prudently administer the programs."
They also must avoid spending funds on activities that explicitly require legislative action every two years, he wrote, though he added that where such activities are inescapably intertwined with other state agencies, "it would be unreasonable to require the agencies to separate them."
The Legislature may reconvene June 16 to try to finish the bill if an appointed committee of three lawmakers from each chamber can reach a basic agreement on it Monday.