Heathy debate brewing over Legacy Fund

Governor Doug Burgum is proposing using interest from North Dakota’s Legacy Fund for what he feels, and which arguably may be, “legacy” projects and investment in the budget next year.

Meanwhile a study by the Center for the Study of Public Choice and Private Enterprise at North Dakota State University produced the report, “Prairie Prosperity: An Economic Guide for the State of North Dakota,” as reported on by Minot Daily News on Tuesday.

The Legacy Fund should be among policy discussions of North Dakota decision makers, according to recently released findings of the new economics study. The purpose of the report is to help guide policy makers. The report makes several recommendations, including re-thinking property-tax relief programs, measuring public education spending against student outcomes – and avoiding use of the Legacy Fund as a budget-stabilizing device.

In regard the latter, the report suggestion is for the purpose of the Legacy Fund to be clearly defined. The economic report recalled that, in 2013, the Great Plains Institute assembled community stakeholders to set goals for the fund. Residents supported a goal to use the fund as a resource of last resort in times of exceptional need, basically backing up the Budget Stabilization Fund. They also supported using the fund to compensate for reduced revenues when oil and gas production begin to decline. A final goal directs earnings to be spent on visionary actions that build assets and enhance quality of life.

The study however, asserts that the state has the Budget Stabilization Fund already in place and that viewing the Legacy Fund as a secondary rainy day fund isn’t the best policy. The report’s authors say if the state fails to control spending, it won’t get past the first goal.

“The state already has a budget stabilization fund and does not need a second one,” they wrote. “The purpose of the Legacy Fund needs to be clearly stated and codified; its use should not be targeted for budget stabilization.”

However, opinions vary among legislators.

Opinions also vary among taxpayers.

North Dakota lawmakers and residents are entering a healthy debate period. What is the purpose of the Legacy Fund? Should it be better defined? Should it retain a wider mandate so legislators can determine its use when called upon?

This is a good debate to have, and better to have it now.

Residents share a wide range of opinions on the Legacy Fund with Minot Daily News.

Let’s start the discussion now.