BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Backers of a proposed North Dakota ballot measure that would funnel millions more into water, wildlife and parks projects submitted their signed petitions Monday.
North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger received 1,970 petitions, which supporters have estimated have more than 41,000 signatures.
The proposed ballot measure would direct 5 percent of the state's oil extraction taxes into the state's conservation fund. That would raise about $150 million during the 2015-17 budget period, based on current production and oil prices. The existing fund is capped at $30 million during the state's two-year budget cycle.
"We have a unique opportunity to invest a small portion of the funds the oil industry is already paying to our state, without raising taxes, to protect the things that make North Dakota, North Dakota," Steve Adair, director of Ducks Unlimited's office in Bismarck, said in a statement. Adair is also the chairman of North Dakotans for Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks, the measure's sponsor.
Jaeger has until Sept. 8 to certify whether supporters submitted the necessary 26,904 signatures to appear on the November ballot.
Opponents that include energy, farm and business groups say the state already provides money for conservation efforts, and they worry that a bigger fund would take away from other critical needs in North Dakota, including education, human services and infrastructure projects.
Voting members of the North Dakota Ag Coalition unanimously oppose the measure. So do the North Dakota Petroleum Council, which represents more than 500 companies working in the state's oil patch; Lignite Energy Council; Greater North Dakota Chamber of Commerce; North Dakota League of Cities; North Dakota Association of Counties; North Dakota School Boards Association; the North Dakota Farm Bureau; North Dakota Grain Growers; North Dakota Corn Growers; and chambers of commerce from Minot and Grand Forks.
Conservation groups supporting the proposal include: Ducks Unlimited; Pheasants Forever; The Nature Conservancy; The National Wildlife Federation; and the Audubon Society.