You should feel flattered, North Dakota citizens. You will be asked to contribute your suggestions about how one of the state’s key repositories of wealth — the Legacy Fund — should be invested.
That’s fitting. Back in 2010, North Dakota voters decided to establish the Legacy Fund, which sets aside 30% of the state’s oil and gas revenues for strategic investments in the state’s future.
The idea is to finance projects that will leave a lasting legacy. That’s wise. We don’t know when North Dakota’s vast oil and gas reserves will be depleted, but we know that day will come.
Fortunately, the fund is filling at a steady pace, and now stands at $6.2 billion. Earlier this year, the Legacy Fund’s balance was projected to reach $14.4 billion in 2025 if no earnings are withdrawn or $12.6 billion if all earnings are tapped.
In the past, we’ve chastised legislators for failing to come up with concrete ideas, or even visionary guidelines, for how the fund should be used. Belatedly, lawmakers are waking up to the realization that their inaction will likely invite ballot measures that could be popular with voters but imprudent.
So interim legislative committee members are rolling up their sleeves and starting to draft recommendations to bring to the table when lawmakers reconvene in 2021.
At special meetings yet to be scheduled, legislators want to hear from “average Joe public” about how to spend wealth that belongs to all state residents, said Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson.
The interim committee plans to meet four more times, with at least two meetings outside Bismarck, with a suggestion that meetings happen in the evening to make it easier for those who work during the day to attend.
We’re pleased legislative leaders want to hear from the public about how to invest the Legacy Fund. We hope they’re serious. But how many people will take the time to attend a meeting? Maybe a few hundred, at most?
We can make it even more convenient. InForum is inviting readers to submit online ideas for investing Legacy Fund dollars. We’ll tally the results and report the recommendations in the hope that elected representatives will take their constituents’ suggestions to heart.
Legislators in the past two sessions have tapped the Legacy Fund only to balance the state budget or replenish special funds, practical uses but hardly living up to what voters had in mind.
So far, lawmakers have turned aside other serious proposals, including a $300 million slate of recommendations by Gov. Doug Burgum that included $50 million for the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, though they came up with a different funding plan, and $80 million in revolving loan funds to spur $535 million in infrastructure and school construction.
So, give this some serious thought. If you are able, attend the interim legislative committee meetings once they’re announced and make your voices heard.
But for those of you who will be unable to attend, we hope you will submit your ideas online at InForum, sort of like an electronic town hall meeting. Here’s a chance for the “wisdom of crowds” to shine.
Roger Maris would be proud of his hometown ball players: Just days apart, two youth baseball teams distinguished themselves with fine performances in national championships. The Fargo Dirt Dawgs capped a perfect 56-0 season by winning the Babe Ruth World Series Thursday, Aug. 15. Days later, on Wednesday, Aug. 21, Fargo’s Post 2 fell tantalizingly short with a 5-3 loss in its first American Legion baseball World Series championship. Kudos to both teams for their impressive achievements.