Ideas to use the Legacy Fund are endless. Tax reductions, water infrastructure, flood control, education, special facilities, recreation, and more have been suggested. All are relatively valid ideas to use our state’s unique savings to better position the state for the future.

However, not every idea is good, and some are outlandish. One city leader recently proposed using the Legacy Fund to avoid a tax increase of $21 per average home, an idea akin to raiding 401k retirement funds for a dinner at McDonald’s. We cannot fall into a habit of tapping the fund for any and all our minor wants, needs, and pain.

Instead, we must develop long-term spending priorities that improve our state. The Bakken has provided us an unprecedented financial resource generated by the energy industry for everyone’s future benefit. North Dakota has a very rare opportunity and a challenge not found in many other states.

The Legacy Fund Earnings Interim Committee recently met to begin the process of guiding the state’s use of the more than $6 billion in principle and subsequent interest earnings. The committee’s work will last the entire interim and committee members have committed to holding hearings across the state. They will compile input from as many sources as possible and make recommendations to the entire Legislature prior to the 2021 legislative session.

This is a good start. They are taking the right steps. Our legislators must look at priorities that improve our economic future and quality of life with investments in workforce, infrastructure, education, and community improvements. Western North Dakota will continue to require investment that normalizes its quality of life and workforce with schools, teachers, hospitals, law enforcement, home building and more. These are truly investments, not expenditures, and will make the Bakken more competitive, a better place to work, and a lower cost basin, thereby increasing its production and thus adding even more to the Legacy Fund.

We are fortunate to have this challenge and should proceed with caution when formulating a plan to capitalize on this opportunity. Ensuring the earnings from the Legacy Fund are used for just that – legacy projects that benefit as many North Dakotans as possible in as many ways as possible; just as the Bakken Shale Play and its growth has benefitted nearly all corners of our state.

Ryan Senderhauf

Williston, North Dakota

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