BISMARCK — A group seeking to block the use of state funds to support the proposed Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library won't meet its deadline to collect signatures, its leader said Wednesday, July 24.
Riley Kuntz, a Dickinson electrician who chairs the referral campaign's sponsoring committee, said the volunteer effort lacked enough people to gather the 13,452 signatures needed by midnight Thursday to put the question to voters. The group already missed one deadline this week to block a new open records exemption and has another week to muster support to roll back restrictions placed on the state auditor.
Kuntz said he was still hoping to gather enough signatures on the auditor restrictions, which have generated some friction between State Auditor Josh Gallion and the Legislature.
"I was initially feeling pretty good about all three," Kuntz said. "It's just how it goes."
Lawmakers this year signed off on a plan to create a $50 million endowment fund held by the state that would generate earnings to operate and maintain the presidential library. The legislation required $100 million in private donations to construct the facility.
The library is slated to be built in Medora, near the national park that bears Roosevelt's name. The New York native famously said he "never would have been president" if it wasn't for his experiences in the state's Badlands.
Kuntz contended the state has more pressing needs than the library.
But Gov. Doug Burgum, who has championed the library as a way to boost tourism in the state, said Wednesday he wasn't surprised that Kuntz's group fell short because the library is a "really popular idea." He described the state endowment as an "incentive" to raise $100 million in private money.
"The benefit is going to be long-term in terms of economic diversification," Burgum said.