North Dakota voters will decide on an amendment to decrease the amount of money lawmakers can spend from the state legacy fund. The amendment is set to appear on the Nov. 5, 2024, ballot.
The amendment, House Concurrent Resolution 3033, passed the North Dakota House of Representatives on April 25, 2023. It was introduced in the House on Feb. 21, 2023, and then passed the House for the first time on March 14 by a vote of 67-24. The North Dakota State Senate amended the measure and passed it on April 10 by 45-1, and returned it to the House to be approved again.
“When we are talking to voters and our constituents about what we’re using their Legacy Fund money towards, this bill for me doesn’t provide a lot of clarity, and I don’t think it provides a lot of clarity for those folks either,” said State Sen. Sean Cleary, R-Bismarck.
The North Dakota Legacy Fund is a sovereign wealth fund that was established in 2010 when voters approved Constitutional Measure 1 by 63%-36%. The fund is taxed through the production of oil and gas, which it’s modeled after the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund.
The state legislator is currently in the works that will direct the tax cuts as state legislators are packaging a $515 million that cuts income tax for those making less than $45,000 and a cut for those making the highest income in the state.
The legacy fund will authorize over $500 million where $100 million will go to the Legacy Sinking and Interest fund, $225 million that will go towards general tax relief, and $100 million to the Highway Distribution Fund.
Supporters that the money will be sued to create taxpayer relief and opponents say it fails to show how the money will be spent.
The fund was established to receive 30% of tax revenue from oil and gas production. At the end of each two-year period, the funds accrued earnings are transferred to the state general fund.
Currently, lawmakers can spend up to 15% of the principal of the fund over a period of two years, with a vote of two-thirds of each chamber of the state legislature approving. This amendment, if approved by voters, would decrease this amount to 5%. This amendment would also provide the state treasurer to make a distribution from the state legacy fund to a legacy earnings fund rather than distributing accrued earnings to the state general fund every two-year period.
Rep. Corey Mock (D) is one of the sponsors of the amendment. He said, “Give generations well into the future a chance to reap some benefit off of North Dakota’s mineral resources. The wealth under our feet is something our legislators here 20, 30, 40 years ago never dreamed of.”
As of Feb. 28, 2023, the fund value is at $8.8 billion. Since 2017, $1.3 billion of the fund’s earnings were transferred to the state general fund.
“These are heavy conversations — significant policy conversations — and this body is having to make this choice on the 75th day (of the session) without any of these items coming forward,” Mock said. “I’m sorry, but this is an irresponsible conference committee report that has consequences far beyond what any of us are prepared to answer to.”
The constitutional amendment is the third certified for the 2024 ballot in North Dakota.
Produced in association with Ballotpedia.
Edited by Alberto Arellano and Virginia Van Zandt
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