ND Legislature: Oil taxes tops Capitol

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 7, 2013 at 10:01 am •  Published: April 7, 2013
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The reworked tax structure also does not remove price triggers that would lessen state taxes for companies if the price of oil falls below a certain level. The concept, adopted in the 1980s during a time of depressed oil prices, adjusts the state's oil extraction tax based on a five-month average price if a barrel falls below a certain price.

The so-called trigger price currently is set at $52 a barrel and the state could see tax revenue decrease by at least $2 billion if oil falls below the current price trigger.

The proposed tax framework also would modify a revenue sharing agreement that the state has had with the Three Affiliated Tribes since 2008. The agreement limits oil tax rates on Fort Berthold Reservation land, and spells out how the state and tribal governments will share oil revenues. Its goal when crafted was to enhance oil and gas exploration on the reservation.

The Fort Berthold reservation is in the heart of North Dakota's booming oil country. Drilling has skyrocketed since the original agreement was signed and tax collections have been in the hundreds of millions dollars, with the state pocketing the bulk of the revenue. The state's share is divided among counties, cities, school districts and a number of state funds and programs.

The tribes' chairman, Tex Hall, has told lawmakers the agreement should be reworked to provide more revenue to maintain the tribes' own road network, which is used by heavy trucks that have accompanied increased oil drilling on the reservation.

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ABORTION

North Dakota's House is sitting on a bill that would outlaw abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy based on the disputed premise that at that point a fetus can feel pain.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple was out of state late last week and House Republican majority leader Al Carlson of Fargo said the chamber wanted to wait for the governor's return before acting on the bill — again.

North Dakota lawmakers negotiating final details of the anti-abortion measure killed a House amendment to a Senate bill last week that threatened a three-year, $1.2 million federal sex education grant for North Dakota State University.

A conference committee of three House members and three senators voted unanimously to delete the amendment from a Senate measure, which is a challenge to the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion up until viability, usually at 22 to 24 weeks.

Dalrymple already has signed into law this session the nation's strictest restriction on abortion — a measure that bans the practice when a heartbeat can be detected, as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. He signed two other measures banning abortions because a fetus has genetic defects such as Down syndrome and requiring that doctors who perform abortions be physicians with hospital-admitting privileges.

Dalrymple already has hinted that he will sign the so-called fetal pain bill. He's expected back this week.

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