Dunn County could get millions of dollars

A little more than $1 billion is sitting unused on the state’s balance sheet and a group of Republican legislators from western North Dakota want it spent, well, at least some of it.

By Bryce Martin | N.D. Group Editor | bmartin@countrymedia.net

A little more than $1 billion is sitting unused on the state’s balance sheet and a group of Republican legislators from western North Dakota want it spent, well, at least some of it.

Sens. Rich Wardner of Dickinson, Kelly Armstrong of Dickinson, John Andrist of Crosby and Rep. Mike Schatz of New England called for the legislature to consider an $800 million one-time “surge” fund for use in heavily impacted areas affected by North Dakota’s overwhelming oil production.

The funds would be used for many infrastructural needs, such as the creation of roads, building affordable housing and spurring other community development.

Authors of the bill said they expected debate to ensue once the legislature takes on the task of the bill’s consideration. That will occur Jan. 16, as a legislative session has been scheduled for discussion on the bill that day.

Though, if oil prices drop too low—the price of one barrel of Brent crude oil is now hovering below $50 as of Wednesday—the state’s oil extraction tax gets waived.

Laws dictate that if oil prices fall below $52.59 at the Oklahoma hub for five consecutive months, oil companies would no longer pay the state’s taxation on oil extraction, which is responsible for providing the state with its large fund surpluses.

Lyn James, president of the Bowman City Commission, announced last year that Bowman County and its cities would be in line to receive such surge funding, if legislators ultimately passed a bill to approve it.

James said, however, that the method potential fund’s distribution rapidly changes as it is further debated.

Bowman County was listed as sixth in line for the suggested direct allocation, proceeding McKenzie, Mountrail, Williams, Dunn and Divide counties.

The biggest opposition to the formula change, said James, comes from the eastern and central areas of the state. James said last year that she heard those areas asking, “What’s in it for me?”

The answer to that is about $150 million, which the bill would direct for non-oil producing areas such as the state’s east side.

Of the total $800 million, $475 would be allocated directly for oil-producing political subdivisions. $140 million would be given to major western cities such as Dickinson and Williston and $35 million for schools within oil counties.


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