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Winter 2010-11 • BAKKEN BREAKOUT Tribune file photo


This much we know: North Dakotans agree it’s a good idea to sock away part of the state’s oil tax wealth in a trust fund whose principal is protected.


The new Legacy Fund that voters approved in November becomes part of the state Constitution on July 1 and will start accumulating 30 percent of the state’s oil and gas taxes.


But after that, it’s largely a guessing game as to how large or how quickly it will grow and how much its proceeds will contribute to the state budget in the coming decades.


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State officials estimate it could accumulate up to $613 million at the end of years and to about $2 billion by 2017.


FUND WILL STORE AWAY OIL PROCEEDS FOR THE FUTURE Sharp said.


Using the most conservative estimates of investment income, the new Legacy Fund could easily be generating $60 million in interest for the general fund by 2017, said state Budget Director Pam Sharp. That’s $60 million for state government programs and operations that won’t have to come from sales tax revenue, income taxes and other sources.


To put it in perspective, $60 million is the same amount that Bank of North Dakota profits have contributed to the state general fund each of the past several bienniums. As oil continues to pump and the Legacy Fund grows ever larger, the proceeds will, as well.


“There’ll be some revenue coming in there all the time unless oil (production) were to suddenly stop,”


By Janell Cole for the Tribune


It’s expected North Dakota’s Bakken oil play will take 30 years to drill, but state officials only attempt to project revenue (of any kind) out a few years.


“None of us knows what the amount is going to be 15 to 20 years from now,” said Sen. Connie Triplett, D- Grand Forks, who was among the sponsors of the ballot measure during the 2009 Legislature. Projections “really are just guesstimates.” As welcome as the interest income on the Legacy Fund will be to state budget writers and taxpayers when it starts becoming available in 2017, that sort of short- term payout isn’t the big idea.


“What it means for the people of North Dakota is


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