Plain Talk: Lawmaker wants to use the Legacy Fund to address North Dakota's legacy problems

What better use could there be for the Legacy Fund than to address some of North Dakota's legacy problems?

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An oil well pumps at sunrset in western North Dakota's Bakken Formation. Forum News Service file photo

North Dakota's Legacy Fund, since it was created by the Legislature and approved by voters in 2010, has turned a slice of the state's oil tax revenues into a nearly $8 billion pot of money.

That balance is invested in stocks and bonds across the nation, and the world, including in some ways that, as a moral matter, we shouldn't be happy about .

Almost none of the Legacy Fund is invested in North Dakota.


Rep. Mike Nathe , a Bismarck Republican, wants to change that.

Or, at least, the part where practically none of these North Dakota tax dollars are invested in North Dakota.

He has proposed legislation that, if passed, would require that 20 percent of the Legacy Fund's balance (he pins that number at about $1.4 billion) would be earmarked for investment in North Dakota. It would be available as capital not just for companies and start-ups, but also for infrastructure.

It's House Bill 1425 .

He talked about the proposal on this episode of Plain Talk.

North Dakota has long been plagued by a shortage of capital. It's hard for companies that want to do business in our companies to find investment. Economic diversification is another long-standing issue dilemma for the state. While our most dominant industries, agriculture and energy, have created no small amount of prosperity here, they're also commodity-based and prone to volatility.


The state's leaders have long, and rightly, seen this as having our economic eggs in too few baskets, and while policies have been implemented to address this problem, as a practical matter little has changed.

Nathe's bill, which has broad support including from legislative leadership, is aimed squarely at those problems. Not only would companies looking to operate in the state have access to more capital, but the funds could also be invested in cheaper financing for needed infrastructure (think things like sewage plants).

Since the state would essentially be lending money to itself, that process would be faster and less of a financial burden to taxpayers.

What better use could there be for the Legacy Fund than to address some of North Dakota's legacy problems?

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Rob Port, founder of, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at .

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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