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Lawmakers: Give counties more ND oil tax money

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 17, 2013 at 3:23 pm •  Published: January 17, 2013

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The 17 oil-producing counties that have helped swell North Dakota's coffers to record levels should get a larger share of production tax revenues to improve infrastructure strained by rapid energy development, a group of lawmakers proposed Thursday.

House Minority Leader Kenton Onstad joined lawmakers from both parties in introducing a measure they called a "catch up and plan initiative." It would redirect to those counties a one-time $2.4 billion payment from the oil production tax, or about 80 percent of the entire fund over the next two years.

Funding for oil-producing counties in recent years hasn't come close to meeting the needs for such things as road building and repair, utilities, housing and schools, he said.

"There are infrastructure needs that should have been addressed six years ago," said Onstad, D-Parshall.

The state currently trails only Texas in oil output. North Dakota has risen from the ninth biggest oil state just six years ago with improved horizontal drilling techniques in the rich Bakken shale and Three Forks formations in the western part of the state.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple's $12.8 billion budget proposes that $532 million be allocated to oil-producing counties over the next two years. The Republican governor's plan also includes 171 new state employees, including more law enforcement, court, health and regulatory workers to monitor the growing energy industry. Dalrymple's budget also includes about $1 billion in road work in western North Dakota.

Dalrymple spokesman Jeff Zent said the governor's budget also $214 million in so-called energy-impact grants to communities affected by oil development.

Onstad said there are more than $828 million in immediate infrastructure needs in Williams County, which currently is the biggest oil-producing county in the state. Money would be divided between counties based on the percentage of their oil output, said Onstad, whose district is in Mountrail County, which has gone back and forth with Williams County as the state's top oil-producing county.

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