Everybody likes parks, clean water and wildlife. But let’s stop and think. What’s really the best way to fund conservation efforts in North Dakota? Measure 5 would affect not only the oil and gas industry in North Dakota, but citizens statewide. It would collect five percent from the oil extraction tax, amounting to $150 million per year, and set it aside for conservation in the state through group such as Ducks Unlimited.
So what’s wrong with conservation, or Ducks Unlimited for that matter? Absolutely nothing. In fact, North Dakota’s traditions of hunting, fishing and outdoor life are still priority in the state. However, the money mandated for conservation would reduce funding meant for other issues critical to North Dakota. The measure would impact the funds allotted for critical infrastructure such as roads and schools, relief for oil impacted communities, affordable housing, public health and tax relief.
On October 1, 2014, a new coalition called Decision Makers for Common Sense Conservation (DMCSC), announced their opposition to Measure 5. DMCSC, comprised of 101 legislators, 26 mayors, all 53 counties, and 300 cities, are working together with North Dakotans for Common Sense Conservation to stop Measure 5 from passing this November. With the oil and gas industry booming in the state and conservation on the minds of people in its wake, Measure 5 has been a hot button topic of this November’s election.
Ron Ness, North Dakota Petroleum Council President, urges both oil and gas workers and those outside the industry to be wary of Measure 5. “Don’t be mistaken, there is a trade-off if this money is not available for the legislature to spend. Now is not the time to divert these oil tax dollars elsewhere…We need to prioritize getting this money back into the communities to get caught up on infrastructure—the oil and gas industry must get out and vote against this measure.”
In addition to impeding the growth and restructuring of state infrastructure, the measure would limit the funds going to other areas that need support. Proper infrastructure affects all North Dakotans, from kids riding buses to the average Joe commuting to work to delivery of goods to your local grocery. Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner stated, “The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has reported that Measure 5 would receive $308 million by the end of the 2015-2017 biennium. This fund would seriously limit our abilities as lawmakers to provide the funding our communities need to grow in a way that not only maintains, but actually improves our citizens’ quality of life.”
The uncertainties created by Measure #5 ought to give voters pause, especially when it comes to North Dakota dollars and how they’re spent. Here are a few reasons we urge a no vote:
- The measure is driven by out-of-state interests. Do folks from other states really have North Dakota’s best interests in mind?
- The measure has little flexibility. The money allotted to conservation is 5% of the oil extraction tax. No matter what. Five percent is almost $300 million per biennium right now. The amendment would mandate that 75 percent of that fund must be spent every year, even if there aren’t projects that North Dakotans might deem necessary. Under this amendment, conservation funding would receive legal precedence over every other need in the state. In addition, the funding would be constitutionally mandated. There would be no way to change the law again without a vote to the people. If urgent issues arise, legislators would not have the ability to use any of those dollars for anything else since they would have to address conservation first. Making changes to our state constitution by adding
- The amendment’s stipulations asks for a biased advisory board. Those who sit on the new 13-member board would be required to have a background in land conservation or conservation activism. Of the 13 advisory board members, only two would be exempt. Only one farmer/rancher and one energy representative would be on the board. How is this balanced?
- The language of the measure is vague and does not give specific details for its spending plan for the money. Think back to the unbalanced advisory board. It’s likely that the money would go to environmental and animal rights groups who aren’t really thinking about what’s best for North Dakota, its land, and the people who live and work here every day. Is this how we want our money to be spent when it could be spent on schools, roads, tax relief, and health and human services?
In deciding how to vote on Measure 5, stop and think. Is this really the best way to ensure that North Dakota is a great environment for our residents? Let’s keep the money for projects that really matter to North Dakota. Voting no doesn’t mean that conservation projects will be completely overlooked, but let’s instead leave the money available to fund the projects our state needs most. Help stop Measure 5 by voting NO in November.
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