North Dakota Legislative leaders agree – lawmakers need to leave the principle of the Legacy Fund alone – for now.
Beginning in 2017, the Legislature can start spending from the fund – but only with a two thirds vote of both houses. And only 15 percent of the fund can be accessed at any one time.
"This is a generational fund," said House Majority Leader Al Carlson (R-Fargo). "This isn't meant for you and I. This is meant for our kids and our grandkids."
Carlson says there are other trust funds that could be used.
House Minority Leader Kenton Onstad (D-Parshall) says he, too, believes most of the money needs to be kept in the fund until it’s needed. But he said he could see spending some of the earnings.
"We have to look at making unique investments into the state of North Dakota," said Onstad. "That would use only a small portion of those earnings."
Assistant Senate Minority Leader Joan Heckaman (D-New Rockford) says she, too, believes the Legislature won’t have to dip into the fund in the 2017 Session. But she says the Legislature missed an opportunity to plan for the future – when a bill to create a “Legacy Foundation” was turned down.
"I don't want 141 of us coming in to the 2017 session and doing the Monster Mash, with all of us throwing in bills, hoping some of them survive to use some of that interest," said Heckaman.
Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner (R-Dickinson) says he could support using some of the fund’s earnings for behavioral health – including mental health and substance abuse treatment.
"We are filling our prisons up with people that have these conditions," said Wardner. "Our prison is full. And we need to find ways to treat these people."
The leaders spoke at the Greater North Dakota Chamber’s Policy Summit in Bismarck.