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Politics & Government

Senate decides Outdoor Heritage fund should stay at $30 million

The state Senate has decided that the outdoor heritage fund needs to stay capped at $30 million for the upcoming biennium.

The fund was created in the 2013 Legislature. It was set up to fund conservation and recreational projects. The money comes from the oil production tax.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple proposed raising that to $50 million. The House sliced it to $40 million. But the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee decided on a 4-to-3 vote that the funding level should stay the same.

"The amendments to this bill are what appears to be the first of, unfortunately, a long line of broken promises made during the last election cycle by the Governor and the Majority," said Sen. Tyler Axness (R-Fargo). "Out in the Great Hall, there was a press conference, saying that we're going to bump this cap up. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case."

Axness says if the fund is not a priority, then the Republicans shouldn't be making promises they do not intend to keep.

But the amendment’s supporters say oil tax revenue projections are down. And they say there were a lot of projects proposed that were rejected – and not all the original $30 million has been spent. And they say the bill tightens up the guidelines on what can and can't qualify for funding.

"We're looking for $30 million worth of quality projects," said Sen. Don Schiable (R-Mott).

The amendments passed on a voice vote – and the bill then passed 36 to 11. It goes back to the House for further work.

This is a policy bill. The bill with the actual appropriation is still pending.

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