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ND Senate declines to challenge veto of oil trust fund bill

BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota’s Senate on Tuesday refused to challenge Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s veto of a bill that would have barred a governor from budgeting money from the state’s trust fund for oil taxes.

The Legislature passed a measure this session that prohibits the governor from considering money from Legacy Fund’s principal when crafting budgets. It also requires the fund’s earnings to be invested back into the fund’s principal.

The bill sailed through the Republican-led Legislature. It won House approval by a 82-9 vote, while the Senate passed it 47-0.

Dalrymple, in his veto message, said the bill was unconstitutional and would “infringe” on his executive authority to submit budget plans.

North Dakota’s House voted 67-23 Monday to override the veto. The Senate on Tuesday took no action on it, effectively upholding the governor’s veto.

Related: ND House overrides governor’s oil trust fund veto

North Dakota voters approved the fund’s creation in 2010, when they endorsed a constitutional amendment that requires setting aside 30 percent of North Dakota’s tax revenues on oil and natural gas production. The amendment bars the Legislature from spending any of the fund’s assets until June 2017. After that, a two-thirds vote of the North Dakota House and Senate is needed to spend any of the fund’s principal. Lawmakers may not withdraw more than 15 percent of the principal every two years.

The fund is expected to top $3 billion this month, with an expected transfer of nearly $39 million.

Fargo Republican Rep. Al Carlson, the House majority leader, said the Legislature wields the authority to decide the fate of the fund’s earnings.

“We do not want that money appropriated. We want that money back in the Legacy Fund where it belongs,” Carlson said. “We need to send a message that this is an issue that we are in control of.”

The constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2010 requires that the fund’s earnings be transferred into the state’s general fund after June 2017. Legislators had sought to put the earnings back into the fund’s principal.

Dalrymple said doing so “would clearly contradict the will of voters.”

This article was written by James Macpherson from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.