Oil tax campaign spurs funding squabbleBISMARCK — Opponents and supporters of a constitutional measure to put much of North Dakota’s oil tax income off limits to routine spending are trading accusations and demands about each group’s backing.
By: Janell Cole, N.D. Capitol Bureau
BISMARCK — Opponents and supporters of a constitutional measure to put much of North Dakota’s oil tax income off limits to routine spending are trading accusations and demands about each group’s backing.
Measure 1 supporters are known as the Permanent Promise Coalition.
The measure’s opponents are Partners to Protect North Dakota’s Future.
Neither group has had to publicly disclose its funding to the secretary of state yet, and won’t have to until October, days before the election.
Measure 1 will make the Permanent Oil Tax Trust Fund a restricted fund, with only the interest going into the general fund for routine spending. The principal would be off limits to spending unless three-fourths of the members of both the state House and Senate voted to spend it, and, even then, no more than 20 percent of the principal could be spent every two years.
Currently the Permanent Oil Tax Trust Fund exists, but is routinely tapped every two years by the Legislature to balance the state’s budget.
The measure’s opponents this week called on supporters to reveal their funding sources, saying they were responding to supporters characterizing them as “out-of-state special interest groups.” Opponents said the other group has been unfairly labeling the Partners group during public meetings around the state.
Stuart Savelkoul, campaign director for the opposing group, said “Partners” is a broad-based non-partisan coalition of organizations and citizens, including the state AARP, North Dakota Education Association and North Dakota School Boards Association and “have nothing to hide and are proud of our affiliation with such worthy organizations.
“These organizations represent the interests of thousands of North Dakotans,” he said—86,000 AARP members, 8,800 NDEA members and 1,200 NDSBA members.
But Rep. Dave Weiler, R-Bismarck, head of the measure supporters, said the measure’s opponents’ funds have “got to be from Washington, D.C.”
His group’s funds all come from North Dakota, he said.
“We’re not afraid to let people know where our money comes from, Weiler said. “We don’t have a dime from out of state.”
Their donations are from individuals and from the North Dakota Farm Bureau, North Dakota Chamber of Commerce, North Dakota Petroleum Council and an in-state independent oil producers’ association, he said.
Furthermore, Weiler said, his coalition’s steering committee and activists are all volunteers, while the opponents’ group has paid staff.
Janell Cole works for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Dickinson Press.