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Measure 1 passes, creates 'Legacy Fund'

BISMARCK -- It looks like North Dakota voters have decided a portion of oil tax revenue should go into a "Legacy Fund."

With 182 of 505 precincts reporting, 66 percent, or 48,691 voters, favored Measure 1, with 34 percent, or 25,467 votes, against.

Supporter Sen. Connie Triplett, D-Grand Forks, said she's pleased with the results.

"I think that the compromise the Legislature made in the last session is obviously one that was acceptable to the voters, and it looks like it will win by an easy margin, and I think that's the right decision," she said.

Measure 1 requires 30 percent of oil extraction and gross production tax revenue to go into the Legacy Fund. The measure is effective for oil and gas produced after June 30.

The State Investment Board will invest the principal of the fund, which would be frozen until July 1, 2017. After that, the fund's earnings would be transferred to the general fund for state spending.

For principal to be spent, two-thirds of the Legislature would need to agree. Not more than 15 percent of the principal could be spent per biennium.

Under the measure, funding for impact grants, oil and gas research, and political subdivisions must remain, but the Legislature may adjust allocations.

The measure had bipartisan support from North Dakota lawmakers who said the state needs to set aside oil money to benefit future generations. However, some lawmakers questioned whether it was a good idea to put money away when the state has infrastructure needs.

Rep. Merle Boucher, D-Rolette, said all indications going into Election Day were that the measure would pass.

"I hope that we're able to deal with our infrastructure issues and do as the measure says, put the money aside like people are telling us to do," he said.

Sen. Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson, said the voting results were good.

"I do know we're going to have to do some planning to really make it work the way I think it should, but it's a good deal," he said.

The state Office of Management and Budget included projections for Measure 1 in a recent report. Revenues flowing into the Permanent Oil Tax Trust Fund in 2011-2013 are projected to be $698 million, which assumed passage of the Legacy Fund measure. This would reserve an additional $613 million under the terms of the measure.

Teri Finneman is a multimedia reporter for Forum Communications Co.