Senator Joan Heckaman and Representative Josh Boschee introduced legislation today that would utilize earnings from the Legacy Fund to fund key priorities in the state and provide for greater investment of the fund in North Dakota.

Senator Heckman’s bill, SB 2276, would require that a portion of the principal within the Legacy Fund is invested within the state of North Dakota. “The Treasurer’s Office has done a great job investing the principal to ensure the state receives an adequate rate of return. However, this money is being invested out of the state,” said Senator Heckaman. “This bill prioritizes investing in North Dakota’s infrastructure and the needs of our own communities. This will provide additional benefits and resources to the state, while still providing the Fund a rate of return.”

The principal cannot be expended without a two-thirds vote of the legislature, and even then only 15% can be used during a biennium. However, 100 percent of the Legacy Fund earnings are available to be appropriated every biennium. Earnings became available starting in 2017, and, due to higher earnings than expected, there is approximately $275 million available from the current biennium to be allocated for the 2019-2021 biennium. Rep. Boschee’s bill, HB 1484, would allocate those funds to several programs.

Among the programs proposed for funding in Rep. Boschee’s bill are:

  • $40 million in education challenge grants for the North Dakota University System to offer scholarships. Funds would require a 2 to 1 private sector match.
  • $30 million for the state’s career academies.
  • $40 million to develop regional behavioral health acute care centers throughout North Dakota so that citizens can receive emergency care near their own community.
  • $30 million to develop a system that would permit the operation of unmanned aircraft in the state beyond line of sight.
  • $30 million to support Research ND for new and emerging research.
  • Earmarks $100 million of 2019-21 Legacy Fund earnings for the creation of a health and human services stabilization fund.

Finally, the bill creates a paid family medical leave fund within the state. It would be financed by employer and employee contributions and would provide a source of steady income for employees who need to take leave for personal medical reasons or to care for a family member. State and federal law requires employers to provide up to 12 weeks of leave for medical treatment or to care for family members. However, more often than not, that leave is unpaid. Under this bill, employees would be eligible to retain at least 66% of their wages for up to 12 weeks.