Poll shows Legacy Fund investment in North Dakota has bipartisan support
JAMESTOWN, N.D. — Chris Wilson, partner and CEO of WPA Intelligence, a polling and research firm, said he found several things unique about a recent poll his company did in North Dakota regarding how Legacy Fund money should be invested.
"We don't usually see any issue where Democrats and Republicans agree," Wilson said. "Here, there is clearly a bipartisan feeling on how the Legacy Fund should be invested."
For example, 79% of likely voters in North Dakota supported investing more of the $7 billion Legacy Fund in North Dakota. Looking at Republicans and Democrats separately, the percent favoring more in-state investing was within the 4.4% margin of error.
The survey was funded by the Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp., which plans to cost-share the expense with other economic development agencies in the state.
Other findings included:
- 72% of North Dakotans thought investing Legacy Fund money in North Dakota could include riskier investments that those found outside the state;
- 15% were in favor of investing the entire Legacy Fund in North Dakota;
- 40% thought there should be no investments of Legacy Fund money outside the United States.
The Legacy Fund was created by a constitutional amendment passed by North Dakota voters in 2010. The fund accumulates money from taxes on oil and gas production. The amendment does not specify how the funds are to be invested.
Shawn Wenko, economic development director in Williston, N.D., and president of Economic Development Association of North Dakota, said investments from the Legacy Fund could help bring primary sector businesses to the state.
"From an economic development standpoint, we look at this period where there is a downturn in the global economy," Wenko said. "It is a good opportunity to explore the opportunities of the Legacy Fund to draw business here."
Jon Godfread, North Dakota insurance commissioner and a member of the State Investment Board, initially proposed the idea of investing 10% of the $7 billion in the Legacy Fund in North Dakota.
Godfread was not available for comment Tuesday, Oct. 20, but has called for an Investment Advisory Committee to review in-state projects before possible investment of Legacy Fund dollars.
“The proposed advisory committee will welcome investments in North Dakota that can provide a market rate of return, assist in the diversification of our state’s economy and get a multiplier effect with monies circulating in our communities,” Godfread said in a written summary of his plan to require 10% of the Legacy Fund be invested in North Dakota.
The North Dakota State Investment Board meets Friday, Oct. 23, and could continue the discussion of possible changes of policy regarding the Legacy Fund portfolio.
The poll was conducted Oct. 13-15 by WPA Intelligence and contacted 500 people who said they were likely to vote in the upcoming election. The pool of people responding was split equally between the Fargo and Valley City demographic area and the Bismarck, Mandan and Dickinson demographic area. There was also an equal split between people who used cellphones as their principal communications tool and those who had a landline phone.
Wilson said the poll's sample size was fairly large for the state of North Dakota and resulted in a relatively low margin of error of 4.4%.
The survey could also lay the groundwork for a statewide ballot initiative in 2022 when the voters could add the words “within the state” to clarify the current constitutional language, Wilson said. That simple change would require the State Investment Board to invest 100% of the Legacy Fund within North Dakota.