Tribune editorial: Public should comment on Legacy Fund

Tribune editorial: Public should comment on Legacy Fund

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Western North Dakota residents will have an opportunity next week to provide input on the Legacy Fund and how to best use earnings from the state’s oil tax savings account. They should take advantage of the chance to comment.

A legislative committee is studying potential uses for Legacy Fund earnings and will meet over two days in Watford City.

The Legacy Fund had a balance of about $6.75 billion as of Jan. 31, according to a presentation this week from the state Office of Management and Budget. Legacy Fund earnings for this two-year budget cycle could exceed $400 million.

The Legacy Fund was established by voters in 2010 to create a savings account for future generations by setting aside a share of oil tax revenue. The fund’s principal can be spent only if two-thirds of both legislative chambers agree.

Lots of ideas have been floated for spending the Legacy Fund earnings, from providing tax relief to rebuilding roads and bridges to funding research initiatives at North Dakota State University and the University of North Dakota.

In Gov. Doug Burgum’s State of the State address, he proposed investing Legacy Fund earnings in infrastructure, property tax relief through “smart growth incentives,” and “transformational legacy projects.”

Burgum proposes investing the rest of the earnings back into the Legacy Fund to grow the principal faster for future generations.

The legislative committee heard a wide variety of proposals when it sought public comment in Fargo last November.

The committee also wants to hear feedback from western North Dakota, the region that is responsible for the oil wealth.

No written comments to the committee had been submitted ahead of the meeting as of Wednesday. The public can submit comments to Adam Mathiak with Legislative Council at amathiak@nd.gov.

The meeting is from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesday and 8:30-11:30 a.m. Thursday at the Rough Rider Center in Watford City.

The discussion of the Legacy Fund comes at a time when North Dakota’s top state oil regulator projects that the state’s oil production may peak within five years. Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms told legislators this week that oil production is expected to plateau for about a dozen years after a peak and then slowly decline by the end of the century, The Associated Press reported. Advancements in enhanced oil recovery could extend that longer.

The Tribune editorial board has previously said that guidelines need to be established to determine what qualifies for Legacy Fund earnings.

Now is the time for the public to get involved and help shape decisions that will affect generations to come.

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