In 2010, 63.5% of North Dakotans voted to approve a constitutional amendment to create the Legacy Fund. The measure provided that 30% of oil and gas gross production and oil extraction taxes were to be deposited in the Legacy Fund, a permanent trust fund. The earnings of the fund were locked in place until June 30, 2017, to grow the fund, after which all earnings were available for the legislature to appropriate by a simple majority vote.
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There have been many suggestions as to how those earnings should (or could?) be used. That is the reason the legislature has created an interim committee to sift through those suggestions, and come up with a reasonable plan for utilization of what the voters intended as the purpose of the fund.
An interesting aspect is the diversity of ideas on the purpose of the fund. Looking at material published by the supporters of the amendment in 2010, some might cite as its purpose: “the Legacy Fund would secure North Dakota’s financial future by providing a consistent state revenue stream for our children and grandchildren.” They might urge the spending of all the earnings. On the other hand some might focus instead on the phrase from that campaign, “vote yes to save some oil money." They might urge putting the earnings back into the fund. Others take a middle ground, save some earnings, spend some earnings, make no long-term commitments.
The legislative committee is tasked with suggesting a balanced approach to the fund, which is expected to grow to over $6.2 billion in the next two years. The earnings available next session will approach $500 million.
The Legacy Fund Earnings Committee, under the leadership of Rep. Chet Pollert, R-Carrington, plans to hold meetings outside of Bismarck, including hearings in the evening to gather input from citizens. The next meeting is scheduled in the Fargo area on November 12-13. All 141 legislators look forward to your input and suggestions for the future of North Dakota.