BISMARCK -- Gov. John Hoeven has a plan to use $300 million of our state's projected surplus; no wait, he updated that plan recently to $500 million. Not to be outdone, state Sen. Tim Mathern, D-Fargo and the Democratic candidate for governor, came up with a plan to do away with $1 billion of our state's projected surplus.
Brace yourself for the governors' next plan; I expect the bidding to go higher.
The one thing these plans have in common is that they are dead on arrival at the North Dakota Legislature. When the Legislature convenes in January, 141 new and returning legislators will bring 141 ways and means to deal with our budget surplus. Unless we voters take charge in November, the projected state surplus of $1.3 billion will be gone when the Legislature adjourns in April.
Luckily, we voters can cut these politicians off at the pass by voting yes on Measure 1. Measure 1 would establish a permanent oil trust fund by setting aside a portion of our oil tax revenue to help pay for state government for generations to come. Measure 1 would operate much like our state's School Trust Fund, which has almost $1 billion in assets and will contribute $77 million to schools this coming biennium.
The bulk of North Dakota's current budget surplus comes from oil tax money. The oil industry has a history of booms and busts. It is simply not sustainable to adjust our state's spending upward to match this current level of income.
By voting yes on Measure 1, we will save some of this newfound wealth and help pay for future government operations. If Measure 1 doesn't pass, then come next April, our $1.3 billion surplus will be gone, gone, gone.