North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum signed legislation addressing what state officials described as a misallocation of oil tax dollars Thursday.
State officials have said three constitutional funds were shorted about $262 million over roughly the past decade and money instead flowed to other government pots. Lawmakers and others have blamed "ambiguous" language in law for confusion over the state's share of oil extraction tax dollars generated by activity on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation.
Under the plan swiftly approved by lawmakers last week, $64.4 million in earnings from the state's oil tax piggy bank, known as the Legacy Fund, would go to the Common Schools Trust Fund, which supplements state aid to schools. The bill also bumps up allocations to the Resources Trust Fund, which finances water infrastructure projects and energy conservation programs, to refill the bucket over time.
“This bill is a reasonable compromise that ensures all money intended for education will be spent on students and that the Resources Trust Fund will be made whole over time," Burgum said in a statement.
The bill doesn't address repaying the Foundation Aid Stabilization Fund, which acts as a safety net for education funding, because that would amount to a "shell game," Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson, previously said.
Senate Bill 2362 also clarifies state law on future oil tax distributions.
State Treasurer Kelly Schmidt, a Republican whose office is responsible for distributing state funds, has stood by explanations that she was following legal advice on the allocations. Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem previously said he hasn't been asked for a formal opinion on the issue.