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Legacy fund questions remain as session draws near


Back in February, life as we know it was still relatively normal.

That was when the North Dakota Legacy Fund Earnings Committee had last met.

Since then, the coronavirus pandemic has turned things upside down.

“We’ve never seen it at this junction where there’s so much uncertainty going on right now,” said Representative Chet Pollart, the Chairman of the Legacy Funds Earning Committee.

Millions have been sickened by the coronavirus across the country, but now it seems North Dakota’s Legacy fund is sick as well.

When the economy went into the tank earlier this year it had a direct impact on deposits made into North Dakota’s largest piggy bank.

Deposits into the fund have dropped every month since a $61 million payment was made in February.

It fell to 55 million in March…45 million in April…25 million in May, before an all-time low payment of 10 million was deposited in June.

Representative and House Majority Leader Chet Pollart chairs the Legacy Fund Earnings Committee. He tells KX News some difficult decisions are on the horizon.

“This is going to be a coming session, we’re going to be trying to cover our basic needs like education, long term care needs for seniors, our dd population and our roads that what we need to be focused on, I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of extra frill,” said Pollart.

The committee recently asked the public for their thoughts on the proposed use of legacy fund earnings, and while they received nearly 200 proposals, the potential lack of funds could mean many of those proposals fall by the wayside.

Committee members KX News spoke with told us they would love to have a clear cut picture by now as to what can and can’t be funded with the legacy fund when the session rolls around in January, but they just don’t know right now because of all the unknowns especially with low oil tax revenue, the COVID-19 pandemic and even the recent decision to turn off the Dakota Access pipeline

Jessica Unruh is one of the senators on the committee and says they’ve been down this road before and are ready to tackle what lies ahead.

“2013 was my first legislative session and we were really at the height of of the boom at the time, but when we came back in our next session we really had some budget shortfalls that we were having to deal with while this certainly is an unprecedented situation for our state and our country to be dealing with, I think we’re well equipped as legislators to deal with fiscal shortfalls that we’ll be seeing here in the upcoming session,” said Unruh.

What does look certain, is the economic downturn could leave a lasting legacy on the legacy fund for years to come.

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