Senate Minority Leader Mac Schneider said he and other lawmakers from areas outside the oil patch are sympathetic to allowing oil-producing areas to keep a much bigger share of the oil-production tax, at least temporarily.
"It only makes sense to keep most of the wealth where it was created," said Schneider, D-Grand Forks. "I recognize they have literally paid the price."
North Dakota is slated to collect more than $3.8 billion in oil taxes for the current two-year budget cycle that ends June 30. The state is forecast to collect another $5.2 billion in oil taxes in the upcoming budget cycle, Onstad said.
Schneider and Onstad said the money that would be used for the one-time expenditure already has been collected and would not threaten funding for any other projects in the state at present.
"It's not a budget-buster," Schneider said.
For comparison, the $2.4 billion that would be directed to oil-producing counties under the proposal nearly matches the state's entire two-year budget in the mid-1980s.
Schneider and Onstad said they do not favor increasing taxes on oil producers but rather reallocating the revenue to oil-impacted areas.
"We want to take care of the goose that laid the golden egg but we want to make sure we take care of its nest too," Schneider said.
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