Gov. Doug Burgum’s proposed $15 billion budget is the second biggest in state history. A big chunk of that money — more than a billion dollars — is slated to go toward infrastructure spending through government bonds.
With a new bonding bill, North Dakotans may see some return on investment from the state’s oil tax revenue fund in the form of improved infrastructure.
“People in this state are saying, ‘When are we going to have some benefits in the legacy fund?'” Sen. Rich Wardner said.
Earlier this week Burgum boasted his $1.25 billion bonding plan to state lawmakers.
“It doesn’t raise taxes one single dollar or even rely on tax revenue for repayment of the bonds,” Burgum said in his State of the State address Tuesday.
The proposal uses money from the Legacy Fund, which includes nearly $8 billion of oil tax revenue, to pay back 20-year bonds sold to investors.
“Now is the time to take advantage of historic low-interest rates to bond for roads, bridges and other immediate, one-time infrastructure projects,” Burgum said.
Burgum’s plan is similar in some ways to the one unveiled by legislators Wednesday but differs in cost. Legislators’ call for $1.11 billion compared to Burgum’s $1.25 billion to fund flood infrastructure, which would address the Red River in Fargo, as well as carbon capture projects and an ag development center.
“Well this bill will be one of probably three bills coming through the legislature that will put Legacy money out into the state of North Dakota, investments, grants and so forth to help the people of this state move forward,” Wardner said.
Wardner says low interest rates and rising inflation makes now the ideal time.
“Having all the money in a savings account and not using it for legacy type projects like this is, is not a good return on the taxpayers’ initiative to create the fund in the first place,” Rep. Todd Porter said.
Nearly 80 percent of North Dakota voters supported investing more Legacy Fund money in the state, according to an October survey by the Jamestown Development Corporation.
Democrats in the assembly also unveiled their own bonding proposal Thursday, at $2 billion with 25-year bonds instead of 20.
Lawmakers haven’t filed those bills yet, and they’ll likely go through rounds of negotiations and changes before anyone votes.