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AS I SEE IT

Posted 10/27/10 (Wed)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

When North Dakotans go to the polls on Nov. 2, they are going to be asked to vote on two measurers that will be on the ballot. One of the measures, called the Legacy Fund, would set aside 30 percent of the tax revenue generated from oil production into a special fund while the second measure would ban high-fenced hunting in the state.
In previous elections, I have used this column to try to explain the measures that are before the voters, and so once again, here is my synopsis of the two measures and my take on them.
Measure No. 1, if passed by the voters, would amend the state’s constitution and provide that 30 percent of the tax revenue that the state receives from oil production and extraction be deposited into a special fund, which is being called the Legacy Fund.
As proposed, the money put into the fund could not be used until 2017, and then only 15 percent of the money could be spent during any biennium if the expenditures were approved by a two-thirds majority of both houses of the state legislature.
Proponents of the Legacy Fund say that it is only prudent for the state to set aside a significant portion of the state’s oil revenues to help fund state expenditures after the energy development is over. Many other oil states have similar programs that have billion dollar funds that are earning millions of dollars in interest.
Opponents of the measure say that it is too early to be setting aside so much tax revenue when there are many pressing needs for infrastructure improvements, especially in western North Dakota where the energy development is occurring.
Additionally, many oil producing counties are concerned that the creation of the Legacy Fund could very well mean that they will be getting less oil revenue that they desperately need to maintain their roads and other infrastructure needs.
The bottom line is that the concept of the Legacy Fund is good. North Dakota needs to save a portion of the riches that it is receiving today to help take care of tomorrow’s needs.
But to lock up the money before the pressing needs in western North Dakota, which is bearing the brunt of the oil development, does not make sense.
Under ideal circumstances, I would prefer that Measure No. 1 not be voted on in this General Election. We need to allow the Legislature to have access to all of the oil revenues that are flowing into the state treasury to meet the escalating needs in western North Dakota.
The Legacy Fund makes sense. But not right now.
Measure No. 2, if approved by the voters, would prohibit charging money for the killing of big game animals or exotic species within man-made enclosures or fences. In other words, it would end game farm hunting.
Proponents of the initiated measure say that hunting animals inside private enclosures is unethical and, in no manner or form, to be considered hunting.
Opponents of the measure say that what landowners do within the confines of their own property is their business and that game farms are a way for farmers and ranchers to diversify their business. Opponents also point out that the operation of game farms within the state are regulated by the North Dakota Dept. of Agriculture and the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.
Personally, I agree with the proponents of Measure No. 1 who claim that hunting wildlife inside high-fence enclosures is not hunting. But I also acknowledge that just because I don’t consider that hunting doesn’t mean that there aren’t those people who are willing to pay a fee to harvest the animal of their choice.
So long as game farms are regulated by the State of North Dakota, there is no reason to enact a measure that would prohibit the charging of a fee to harvest animals on such farms.