Posted 11/03/10 (Wed)
By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer
The booming oil activity in western North Dakota has brought with it increased employment, increased tax revenue and a strong economy in the midst of a struggling U.S. economy. However, with the increase in oil activity, there has also been a multitude of challenges for local, county and state decision makers. Challenges that are difficult to understand if you’re not familiar with oil country.
In an effort to help legislators better understand what is happening in western North Dakota, six representatives from the North Dakota Legislature attended three meetings with city officials in oil-affected areas of western North Dakota.
“The purpose of the meeting was to educate or inform the state’s leaders,” says Roger Chinn, McKenzie County commissioner. “We wanted to make them aware that the present formula for distributing oil tax revenue isn’t bringing enough funds back to the oil communities to cover the impact of the oil industry.”
The meeting included a round table atmosphere where commissioners and city officials could get their concerns out and discuss what is happening that makes western North Dakota different from areas of the state that are not being hit by the oil impact.
“I think this was a great meeting,” adds David Drovdal, District 39 representative. “We were fortunate to have the powers that be all together in one meeting. The legislative representatives that were here are the ones responsible for making decisions on oil tax revenue distributions, and I think we made a significant impact.”
In addition to local officials attending last Friday’s meeting at the McKenzie County Courthouse was Senator Bob Stenehjem, Senate Majority Leader, Representative Al Carlson, House Majority Leader, Representative Wesley Belter, chair of the House Finance and Taxation Committee, Senator Dwight Cook, chair of the Senate Finance and Taxation Committee, Representative Bob Skarphol, District 2 and Senator Rich Wardner, District 37.
“This meeting was the first time that any county has ever put the issues and impacts down in black and white,” adds Chinn. “I thought the attendees were attentative and open to hearing and discussing our issues.”
In addition to informing the senators and representatives about the impacts of the oil industry, Drovdal felt that the meeting was also informative for the county and our district representatives.
“This meeting was good for myself as the District 39 Representative because now I know what I need to do in order to continue receiving support from the House and Senate,” comments Drovdal. “The commissioners also learned what they need to provide in order to secure the funding they seek. All in all, the meeting was a success.”