Michelle Solensky, Jamestown
I grew up in North Dakota, and returned with my family five years ago. In the past five years, I have seen rapid changes in this state. As a mom, I want my kids to enjoy the same clean water and recreational opportunities I've experienced in my lifetime, like fishing, camping, and boating. Thankfully, there's an effort underway to protect the things we love most about North Dakota, called the Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks Initiative. This measure would dedicate a small percent of the oil and gas taxes to conservation programs. Unlike the Outdoor Heritage Fund, which was established by the North Dakota legislature last year, the Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks measure does not cap the annual amount of this fund. This is really important, because it means that as oil extraction increases, along with the associated impacts on our land and water, the amount of funding for protecting our natural resources will also increase.
New development has brought jobs and tax revenue to North Dakota, which are good things. But it comes with a number of costs, and these include impacts on our land and water. It makes sense to use some of the tax revenue collected from oil extraction to protect those resources. Estimates for the state's budget surplus are skyrocketing. The proposed measure does not raise taxes on anyone and would invest less than 1 percent of our entire state's budget on things like parks, flood control for our cities, and outdoor recreational areas for all citizens to enjoy.
I think it's important for North Dakotans to dedicate a small, but uncapped, percentage of oil tax revenue to protect the things we love most about North Dakota, and I strongly support the Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks Initiative as a way of accomplishing that investment in our future.