Low Oil Revenues Tighten Budget

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When you combine low oil prices with a low rig count, it equals fewer oil extraction taxes for the state.

"We need to reset our expected revenues and we need to appropriate accordingly," said Senate majority leader Richard Wardner, R-Dickinson.

That means a lower budget for lawmakers in the 2015-17 biennium.

"If you add that up, what does that mean? It means a $4.05 billion reduction in oil revenue," said House majority leader Al Carlson, R-Fargo.

Several state agencies worked to create the new forecast, which has been adopted by the House and Senate appropriations committees.

"We will be forced to make some tough decisions and do a lot more prioritizing," Carlson said.

The new forecast estimates maintaining production at 1.2 million barrels of oil a day, with at least 100 operating drilling rigs.

"We are still collecting much more money than any of us ever dreamed of when a lot of us came into the legislature," said House appropriations chairman Jeff Delzer, R-Underwood..

But that still means there won't be as much money going into the Strategic Investment and Improvement Fund.

"Obviously the biggest hit is on the one-time funding area on the constitutional dollars that go into constitutional funds," said Sen. Ray Holmberg, R-Grand Forks.

The report expects oil prices to stay below $55 a barrel, meaning oil and gas producers will see a $46 million tax cut for the current biennium. The legislators said they expect the smaller of two tax incentives to begin on February 1st.

These aren't the final numbers. In March, the legislators can expect another updated forecast from Moody's Analytics.