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The Legacy Fund: Its origin to its place this legislative session

Published: Feb. 11, 2021 at 6:40 PM CST
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - The Legacy Fund is meant to be saved for future generations, but it’s apparent many lawmakers think it’s time to tap into those dollars this legislative session.

For over a decade the Legacy Fund has been growing.

It’s total fund value is now nearly $7.9 billion.

But there’s a plethora of opinions on how to utilize that money.

In a KFYR-TV exclusive interview with former Governor Ed Schafer, who was in office when talks of an oil tax savings fund originated, said he has his own opinions on how Legacy Fund money should be used.

“The earnings from the fund should eventually replace the oil tax earnings or revenues,” said Gov. Schafer.

Some Republicans are pushing for a bill that would move money around and place investments in North Dakota instead of elsewhere.

“Right now we invest in all 49 states, all around the world and, quite frankly, we invest in countries that do not have North Dakota’s best interest at heart. So why not keep some of this money here at home and invest in our own people,” said Rep. Mike Nathe, R-Bismarck.

Rep. Nathe is talking about money invested in other countries that offers financial returns on the fund’s principal.

Nathe was around when the Legacy Fund passed and is looking at using the money for infrastructure and business projects in North Dakota.

Democrats are looking to use it for other things, like higher education research and helping families. They said it should be used on the people, not to fix the state’s budgets.

“That’s certainly a practice we have to stop. We cannot use it to pay our everyday bills. It should be used to invest in opportunities, legacy projects that will move us forward,” said House Minority Leader Rep. Josh Boschee, D-Fargo.

Rep. Boschee said these two bills don’t have to be exclusive. they could actually work in unison.

Former Gov. Schafer said the intention of the fund could be played out in these bills.

But said there’s others being introduced that it would not.

“If you tie these funds to specific programs, I think that’s a mistake and I worry about some of the legislation that’s proposed up on the hill doing just that,” said Gov. Schafer.

With the downturn in the oil and gas industry because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s becoming more and more apparent the amount of money going into the fund is going to decrease until the economy improves.

Bills, from both Democrats and Republicans, attempting to tap into Legacy Fund earnings will continue to be heard throughout session.

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