Lawmakers right to study Legacy Fund earnings

Although it was set in motion when legislation failed to address use of Legacy Fund earnings during this year’s legislative session, it was still an important step for North Dakota’s Legislative Management committee to make sure to include the item in 46 study topics to be examined for possible inspiration for bills in two years. The study was one of 15 mandated by the Legislature.

Once again use of Legacy Fund earnings is likely to be a subject of debate in the next legislative session and probably the subject of proposed bills.

The Legacy Fund was approved by voters as an oil tax savings account and while there are strong restrictions on using the fund itself, earnings from the fund can now be accessed and utilized by the Legislature.

This year, many legislators had ideas for use of Legacy Fund earnings. So did Gov. Doug Burgum, who offered up a list of what he considered “legacy” projects, including the proposed Teddy Roosevelt Library.

Other representatives proposed using the fund earnings to eventually eliminate the state income tax, a worthy idea well worth discussing.

Still others proposed reinvesting Legacy Fund earnings in the fund itself, which – according to proponents – would snowball into an incomparable fund for our children and grandchildren.

The wealth of ideas is a good thing. The Legislature should be an open forum of ideas. They succeeded in that this year. Congratulations are due the entire Legislature for such a brisk debate.

Minot Daily News supported an effort to prompt the Legislature to have to vote to transfer funds from earnings to the state for general use. It seemed logical. Automatic transfer of funds makes it easier to utilize them without specific accountability. Maybe it shouldn’t be that easy.

That said, the current study is acceptable and MDN believes the results will be both interesting and also provide a roadmap for lawmakers.

The public voted to create the Legacy Fund. MDN urges taxpayers to carefully observe the study and to keep open minds to results.

The Legislature is doing the right thing. Will the rest of us do our due diligence?

We should.