5 things to know today: Budget proposal, Business funding, Jail lawsuit, Couple scammed, Hockey experience
A select rundown of stories found on InForum.
1. Burgum proposes record-high budget as North Dakota sees huge oil tax windfall
Amid higher-than-expected oil tax collections, North Dakota is well-positioned to cut income tax, spend big on infrastructure projects and tackle persistent labor shortages, said Gov. Doug Burgum during an address to lawmakers on Wednesday, Dec. 7.
The Republican governor released an $18.4 billion state budget proposal for 2023-2025 that would raise spending by 3.4% over the current two-year budget. The blueprint includes a $5.9 billion general fund, up from the $5 billion spent from the state's main checking account in the current budget.
Burgum's proposal would be the biggest budget in state history, though the governor noted that high inflation and massive infusions of federal money drive up the dollar figure.
The Legislature will convene for its regular session in January to craft the budget, which will become active on July 1, 2023.
Oil and gas tax collections — a primary source of revenue for the state — have benefited from high oil prices and are on pace to hit $6 billion by the end of the budget cycle in June.
That windfall, along with steady sales, income and motor vehicle tax collections, would leave North Dakota with a significant budget surplus, including a projected $3 billion in cash that can be carried over to the next budget, Burgum said.
“I’m pleased to report that our state’s balance sheet has never been stronger,” Burgum said.
2. North Dakota unveils $13.6 million in funding available to businesses statewide
The North Dakota Department of Commerce will soon make $13.6 million available to "early-stage" businesses in the state.
The soon-to-be-available equity and venture funds are part of the Angel Match Program administered by the North Dakota Development Fund. The program was announced via news release Tuesday, Dec. 6. Applications for the Angel Match Program open Friday, Dec. 9.
According to the news release, the program "was created to expand access to capital for underserved communities by focusing outreach, technical assistance, and capital investment in rural communities, tribal communities, and communities undergoing economic transitions such as coal communities."
Through the program, investments made by private entities into eligible businesses are eligible to be matched, up to a maximum of $250,000. Those private entities can be either individuals, LLCs, businesses, trusts or investment funds, the news release explained. Investors and businesses receiving investment must be and remain in compliance with state and federal securities regulations.
Businesses can apply only if the total financing round is $2 million or less, the news release added.
3. Family of man who bled to death at Cass County Jail files federal lawsuit
The family of a man who bled to death two years ago in a Cass County Jail cell is suing Essentia Health, the county and others involved in the case.
The family of Luke Michael Laducer filed the federal lawsuit on Friday, Dec. 2, against the hospital, the county, Sheriff Jesse Jahner, Jail Administrator Andrew Frobig, a doctor, two nurses, a watch commander at the jail and 10 unknown defendants. A civil complaint alleges Laducer’s civil rights were violated when he was incarcerated at the jail in late 2020, and that the actions of the defendants led to his death.
"They (the family) are seeking justice from a jury of community members," said Jeff Price, an attorney who is representing Laducer's family.
Laducer called 911 dispatchers at 2:23 a.m. Dec. 18, 2020, to report he was suicidal, the complaint said. Officers found the 41-year-old at his south Fargo apartment and took him to Essentia Health to check his mental state and level of intoxication, according to the complaint.
Family previously told The Forum they found blood in his apartment, though they weren’t sure if it came from internal bleeding or something else.
The complaint also said he was spitting up, coughing up or sneezing blood when officers arrived at his apartment, a sign that could have led to medical staff learning he was hemorrhaging.
4. Lakes area retired couple scammed out of 'life savings'
Ron and Sharon Knutson were so excited about retirement after years of working, but it all changed last month, when they got an email saying there were fraudulent PayPal charges on their debit card.
"(H)e said it was on a Visa debit card. Well, that's our bank card," Ron Knutson said.
Everything seemed and looked legitimate, but when they called the number on the back of their debit card, they came to believe their phone had also been hacked.
"That's where I found out my phone must have been hacked, because this guy answered the phone, 'First National Bank, this is Brandon. How can I help you?'" Ron Knutson said.
"So, they had it all set up with PayPal that when we call in to the back of our credit card, that they pick it up," Sharon Knutson added.
The scammer told them their bank was under investigation for embezzlement and were told to move thousands of dollars to bitcoin wallets.
"He said, 'This is a safe way to do it, because your wallet is secure. That wallet will be secure. By the time this is over, you can put all that money back in the bank,'" Ron Knutson said.
5. 'An experience I'll remember': Fargo Davies hockey player Mathilde Vetter reflects on time with Team Germany
Before Mathilde Vetter could begin her senior season with the Fargo Davies girls hockey team, she was busy wrapping up a preseason tune-up of sorts in Finland.
Last month, the Eagles blue-liner was overseas representing the German women's national team at the Euro Hockey Tour's Five Nations Tournament in Vierumäki, Finland on Nov. 8-12.
The tournament — which featured Germany, Finland, Sweden, Czechia and Switzerland — was one of several that served as a way of preparing each national team program for the International Ice Hockey Federation's 2023 competition calendar.
Vetter was born in California after her German father moved to the U.S. in his mid-20s. Vetter holds dual citizenship, which makes her eligible to compete for Team Germany.
The road to Finland began this past summer when the IIHF's Under-18 Women's World Championship was played in Madison, Wis. in June.
"We went there, watched some games, talked to the (Germany) coach there, and then he had invited me for this November tournament," Vetter said. "So it was my first time playing with any German team or any national team."