OUR OPINION: Vote yes on N.D.'s Measure 1

Two strong objections have been raised against Measure 1, the proposal to set aside a portion of North Dakota's oil-and-gas revenue into a Legacy Fund.

Two strong objections have been raised against Measure 1, the proposal to set aside a portion of North Dakota's oil-and-gas revenue into a Legacy Fund.

But neither is strong enough to justify a "no" vote. Measure 1 remains both a prudent and a landmark measure, one in which a modest action today can improve North Dakotans' lives for generations to come.

The first objection suggests that North Dakota can't afford a trust fund because the infrastructure needs are too great. In particular, critics say, western North Dakota's roads are so beat up that improving and maintaining them will take all of the would-be Legacy Fund dollars and then some.

But the Legacy Fund won't be taking all or even most of North Dakota's oil-and-gas tax revenues. Instead, the measure calls for only 30 percent of that revenue to be set aside.

That leaves a full 70 percent of the revenue for infrastructure and other work. Plus, North Dakota will go into the 2011 legislative session enjoying a gigantic surplus, and a big share of that money also will be available.


The state is comparatively flush, in other words. In fact, North Dakota might just be financially better off today than ever before.

It's just prudent to save a modest share of that bounty. And remember, the Legacy Fund dollars won't be locked away forever. The interest will become a permanent revenue stream after 2017, easing North Dakotans' tax burdens at that point and forevermore.

The other objection holds that no trust fund of this sort is justified because government doesn't deserve it. Any such surplus should be returned to the taxpayers, and that's that, the critics claim.

But do most North Dakotans agree?

Republican Gov. John Hoeven was re-elected twice with supermajority support. Now in his third term and the leading candidate for U.S. Senate, he's an unapologetic supporter not of dramatically smaller government but of smart government: government that delivers services efficiently and effectively.

North Dakota's highway network qualifies. So does its higher education system. So do its courts, state parks and other arms of state government, judging by the support they've won from not only the governor but also the GOP-controlled Legislature (including former House Majority Leader Rick Berg).

As long as the budget is balanced, the business climate is strong and the tax burden is modest or low, North Dakotans seem not to object to the services their government delivers. Just the opposite: Some services are a point of honest pride, such as the universities that have launched residents by the thousands into rewarding careers.

Measure 1 seems sure to win that same respect.


Alaskans get checks each year thanks to their Alaska Permanent Fund. Wyoming likewise sets mineral-tax money aside; as a result (and among other good works), the state's generous Hathaway Scholarship program now helps Wyoming students attend the state's colleges and universities.

North Dakotans now have their own chance to set up such a historic fund. Vote yes on Measure 1.

-- Tom Dennis for the Herald

Endorsement editorials represent the views of Forum Communications, the Herald's parent company. This editorial was written by Herald editorial page editor Tom Dennis.

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