BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota’s Legislature is in its last week before its midseason break, and lawmakers are finishing up committee work and considering remaining bills in their respective chambers.
Oil taxes and how that revenue should be spent will be the biggest issues debated this week as the session heads toward crossover. A Democratic house member is also pushing to amend the state Constitution to allow North Dakota residents to directly benefit from the state’s wealth.
North Dakota’s House approved a $1.1 billion “surge funding” bill intended to fast-track money for highways and communities affected by North Dakota’s exploding growth, especially in the booming oil-producing region.
The House voted 90-2 on Friday to approve the funding. The Senate likely will review the changes on Monday and send it to Gov. Jack Dalrymple, which could happen as early as Tuesday.
The legislation would dedicate $450 million in funding for state highway projects. It includes $240 million for the 10 biggest oil-producing counties; $112 million for non-oil-producing counties; $100 million for cities in oil-producing counties; and $198 million for other cities outside the oil patch.
The money is being hurried through the legislative process so projects can begin by summer.
House budget writers will consider a proposal this week to change the formula used to distribute oil and gas production tax revenue in favor of oil-producing counties.
The measure is among the most anticipated — and hotly debated — of the session.
The fund currently sets aside 75 percent to the state and 25 percent to local governments; Gov. Jack Dalrymple is pushing a 60-40 split in favor of local governments in the oil patch to address rapid growth.
Several lawmakers are predicting the split given to local governments will be less due to slipping oil prices.
A Democratic state House member believes individual residents should have the opportunity to share in the state’s wealth.
Rep. Marvin Nelson, D-Rolla, is sponsoring a resolution that would amend the state Constitution to allow direct payments to North Dakota residents. Nelson said a change in the state Constitution could make it possible to establish something similar to the Alaska Permanent Fund, where residents of that state receive an annual check for their share of the state’s oil wealth.
Testimony on the resolution is slated to be taken on Monday.
Nelson said the idea has “weak” support among his colleagues but growing support among North Dakotans.
“It will have very strong support at the ballot box,” he said.
This article was written by James Macpherson from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.