- Associated Press - Thursday, February 19, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Williston Herald, Williston, Feb. 14, 2015

Good thing we were hungry, Al

Almost all is fair in the dirty game of politics.

We get it.

A little jab here, a little jab there, a sound bite for the radio station, and its business as usual from there.

We can take it. After all, we are North Dakotans.

But let us get down to an old concept - business as usual - now there’s something western North Dakota is getting tired of hearing from our state Legislature.

Of course, one listening for the actual phrase would never hear it uttered, but the sentiment is well-known.

A sector of eastern legislators lead the three ring circus that is the House Appropriations Committee, and for the past three sessions have insisted that western oil patch leaders looking for funds need to come to them like a defiant Oliver Twist asking for more slop.

House Majority Leader Al Carlson, R-Fargo, said last week that western leaders needed to “sing for their supper” to the committee.

Good thing we were hungry, Al.

The perfectly timed “Legislative Day” brought 44 Willistonites to Bismarck to sit and see the circus for themselves. And that was just who was on the bus.

There was not only strength in numbers for Williston and western North Dakota, but a willingness to apparently whack Carlson and Rep. Jeff Delzer, R-Underwood, over the nose with a rolled up spreadsheet of the billions of dollars needed to catch up in Williston, Watford City, Dickinson and Minot.

We agree with Senate Minority Leader Mac Schneider, D-Grand Forks, that Carlson’s comments were “demeaning” to the west, but we’re also not going to run the governor or anyone else crying foul.

We’ve gotten this far with what Carlson and his cronies have come up with in terms of funding, and we’re expecting a bigger fight when the bill to slice the oil and gas tax into new portions comes to the forefront.

We’ll be there for that circus, too.

During the off-session in 2014, it looked like Carlson and the rest of the Legislature were doing a service in coming out to Williston and other oil-impacted areas to see what the need was out here.

But now it’s back to business as usual, leaving us wondering if these lawmakers were on their smartphones the entire time.

Stephen McNally, general manager for Hess Corp., said at the MonDak Energy Alliance meeting Thursday that he hoped the state follows through with this funding.

As he said, “We put our money where our mouth is,” when investing in the Bakken and North Dakota.

And the Williston people have, too.

We’ve passed taxes on ourselves to help pay for major improvements to the fire department and a new substation to reach new parts of city limits.

We’ve taxed ourselves to improve our quality of life with the Williston Area Recreation Center.

And for years we’ve stretched every resource to the limit just to get by.

The city of Williston has plenty of its own skin in this game now.

Our people, not a road or a water pipe, are the justification for why we need this funding

It’s time for the state to pass surge funds and invest in the Bakken, and not build it on empty or broken campaign promises.

We encourage the House, as we have before, to follow the lead of the Senate.

Pass this bill without significant cuts to our core needs, without the circus Sen. Dwight Cook, R-Mandan, offered up last session and without the smug sense of needing extreme gratitude when it does pass.

It’s time to end business as usual when it comes to funding the oil patch.

Let us catch up to the rapid growth we’ve seen in the last several years.

Let the city have a chance to provide for its people first.

Let us do what we need to do, and we’ll put supper on the table for the entire state when we’re done.

And we won’t even make you sing for it.

___

Minot Daily News, Minot, Feb. 18, 2015

Examining the House’s ‘priorities’

In less than two weeks, the North Dakota Legislature will be halfway done with its work.

By state law, the House and Senate must make decisions on legislation that began in each chamber so the proposed laws can be sent to the other chamber for consideration. So for those hoping for assistance from the state, time really is running out to convince the House and the Senate to support legislation that might benefit them.

Some questions that will need to be answered in the coming days are important for Minot and Western North Dakota. Will Minot get $100 million proposed by the governor to help with flood control? Will the oil countries get money promised by lawmakers before the price of oil dropped to ease some of the problems in the area? Will there be enough money to finish highway construction started during the last biennium? Will the state help with infrastructure projects in Minot and other areas in our region? Will the Housing Incentive Fund be funded to provide new, affordable housing throughout the state?

We don’t know the final answers to those questions and other pressing issues facing North Dakota. But we do know the House of Representatives felt so strongly it passed legislation proclaiming a Canada Day in North Dakota. The House was also scheduled to vote on legislation commending the North Dakota State football team for winning its fourth straight national title.

When the House voted on Canada Day, only one member, Rep. Rick Becker, voted no. Becker insists he supports Canada, but he feels the House has more important work to do rather than vote on symbolic measures.

We agree fully. We support our neighbor to the north, and we certainly appreciate the relationship North Dakota has with Canada. We also applaud NDSU and hope they can bring home a fifth national title next year. But symbolic votes in the Legislature accomplish nothing. With time running out before crossover, we would appreciate it if the state lawmakers tackled the big issues facing North Dakota.

Canada would probably appreciate it more if we got our work done so trade between North Dakota and our favorite neighbor could continue.

___

The Bismarck Tribune, Bismarck, Feb. 16, 2015

Give focus to N.D.’s Legacy Fund

North Dakota has seen its share of energy booms and busts since oil was discovered near Tioga, N.D., in 1951. We generally pride ourselves on being a fiscally conservative state, prone to storing away funds for a rainy day.

In 2010, voters approved the creation of the Legacy Fund, which had risen to $2.4 billion as of September. Thirty percent of all oil and gas production and extraction tax revenue goes into the Legacy Fund, which can’t be accessed until June 30, 2017.

With 2017 on the horizon, the Legislature is considering a bill that would give some focus to how Legacy Fund earnings will be spent.

Senate Government and Veterans Affairs Committee members heard favorable testimony Feb. 4 on Senate Bill 2344, which would create a private nine-member North Dakota Legacy Foundation. The task of the committee would be to address one major initiative each biennium using fund earnings.

The bill would set the first biennial priority for the new foundation: developing a comprehensive plan for building a top-notch primary and secondary education system for the state.

Creating the Legacy Fund was the will of the people of North Dakota.

North Dakota has not chosen to cut a check to each individual citizen like Alaska. Nor have we chosen to spend the money as it comes in, as if our state was living paycheck-to-paycheck. We have chosen to set aside a large portion of oil and gas tax revenue to make an intentional investment

2017 isn’t far away. Presumably, the requests will come rolling in.

This committee, to be appointed by the governor, would give focus to how our state spends Legacy Fund earnings. Spending any of the fund’s principle would require a two-thirds vote of both houses of the Legislature.

The intent of the Legacy Fund is to preserve some of the oil and gas tax revenue for future investments. The goal of the committee would be to invest in North Dakota’s future, and the first investment would be fostering a world-class education system.

The committee would provide a focus to how we spend Legacy Fund earnings, rather than watch the money get divvied out to myriad projects, ideas and interest groups.

This is an opportunity for North Dakotans to enjoy the benefits of oil revenue statewide and an opportunity to set a vision for the future.

We recommend the passage of SB2344.

___


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