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Gov. Doug Burgum, left, answers question from members of the House Appropriations Committee's Education and Environment Division in January in the state Capitol in Bismarck. He is proposing that money from the Legacy Fund proposal be used to build the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Museum at Medora.

North Dakota lawmakers have yet to act on Gov. Doug Burgum's proposal for a Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library at Medora, seeing a coming revenue forecast as key for the session's second half.

Burgum has proposed using $50 million in Legacy Fund earnings with $100 million in private donations to build the facility at the entrance to Theodore Roosevelt National Park's South Unit. In January, he gave testimony to the Education and Environment Division of the House Appropriations Committee, urging support for his proposal. 

Because of a rule change in how lawmakers budget for the new biennium, Burgum's proposal must enter through an amendment to House Bill 1018, the budget bill for the state Department of Commerce. Burgum has been critical of the rule change, saying "it felt" like his budget recommendations were "tossed in the garbage." 

Rep. David Monson, R-Osnabrock, who chairs the Education and Environment Division, said the governor's proposal is "certainly not dead." He pointed to a revenue forecast due in March as an indicator of how the library may move forward.

"We've got to fund a lot of other things as well, so we're balancing everything out," Monson said. "Right now, we didn't know if we had the revenue stream that we felt we needed for all the other things, plus the library." 

HB1018 left committee with amendments that do not include the library proposal. The House will vote on the bill later this week after approving its amendments Monday. After crossover on Friday -- when bills switch chambers -- the bill goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

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Sen. Ray Holmberg, R-Grand Forks, chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, and said the revenue forecast is due March 11-12 in a joint meeting of the House and Senate appropriations committees.

Holmberg said the forecast will set the tone as the legislative session progresses. He characterized the library as a "heavy lift" as lawmakers have heard concerns about funding for other services seen as priorities, such as nursing homes and infrastructure.

"We will have to see how do we fund our other priorities and then we'll look at it," Holmberg said. "But it's not dead until the end of the session." 

Burgum has continued to gather and announce support for the project, including from Theodore Roosevelt V and former Walmart chair Rob Walton and his wife, Melani, a 1998 Dickinson State alumna. 

The governor on Friday also announced support from acting U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt. 

“I actually think it could be a fantastic project for the state, and we at the Department of Interior will continue to work closely with the state of North Dakota,” Bernhardt told Burgum by phone on Friday.

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Reach Jack Dura at 701-223-8482 or jack.dura@bismarcktribune.com.

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