Guest Opinion: State helping oil-impacted areas

The ever expanding economy in western North Dakota has brought great opportunity to our state.

By State Sen. Rich Wardner (R), N.D. Senate

Majority Leader

 Posted July 5, 2013

It stands in stark contrast to what is happening in the rest of this nation. However, our growth has not come without challenges.

There have been many questions asked about what is being done to meet the needs of the counties at the heart of our energy sector. Some have even incorrectly stated that very little of oil tax revenue goes back to oil counties.

Here are the facts –

Oil and gas taxes are expected to bring in around $5 billion in revenue to the state during the 2013/2015 biennium. Per constitutional provisions set by North Dakota voters, about 40 percent of the oil taxes have to go into special funds such as the Legacy Fund. About 12 percent of the taxes go into the disaster relief fund and to supplement property tax relief for the state. Over 45 percent will go back to the counties, schools, cities and townships impacted by oil development.

Here is how the money breaks down –

Over $1.5 billion is being invested to improve infrastructure for highways and county, township, and city roads.

About $590 million in oil and gas gross production tax allocations will be given in direct payments to the local government: $314 million to counties, $198 million to cities, $47 million to school districts and $31 million to townships.

$10 million from the Strategic Investment and Improvements Fund (SIIF) has been earmarked for critical-access hospitals in the oil patch and $10 million more in SIIF funding will go to law enforcement grants and projects.

$240 million will be allocated from the state’s Oil and Gas Impact Grant Fund to target areas of greatest need in western North Dakota. The grant program includes $14 million for the hub cities of Williston, Minot and Dickinson, $60 million for grants to airport authorities, $5 million for counties impacted by oil and gas development, $4 million for higher education grants, $3.5 million for fire protection districts, $7 million for emergency medical services, $25 million for schools, $135.5 million in undesignated funding for competitive grants to address the region’s most critical needs in schools and other political subdivisions.

This legislative session, legislators also addressed the need for clean drinking water in western North Dakota. $40 million was directed for the Western Area Water Supply (WAWS) project as part of the Williston Water Treatment Plant expansion and $79 million more to expand fresh water supply into rural areas and communities of western North Dakota. $79 million was also given to the Southwest Water Pipeline project in western North Dakota to provide for the construction of water lines in Dunn and Oliver counties, to upgrade Dickinson’s water treatment plant and to extend rural water supplies to other hard hit areas.

The state faces the challenging task of responding to the growth in western North Dakota. While our work is not yet done, the legislature made great advances in meeting the needs of those affected by oil development during the 63rd legislative session.


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