Schmidt speaks in Jamestown
State Treasurer Kelly Schmidt said North Dakota is the envy of the country, at least as far as oil and gas revenues are concerned.
“Like in Detroit and the bankruptcy it’s going through,” she said. “We’ve got our own challenges.”
Schmidt reviewed what the Office of State Treasurer does, including overseeing 180 funds in the state’s general fund. She talked about one of the biggest funds in the state, the Legacy Fund. The Legacy Fund was established in 2010 by the North Dakota State Legislature. Thirty percent of total revenues derived from taxes on oil and gas production or extraction that come into North Dakota go into the Legacy Fund.
“The Legacy Fund is at nearly $2 1/2 billion,” Schmidt said.
The fund was approved by North Dakota voters. The principal and earnings of the Legacy Fund can’t be spent until after June 30, 2017. Any expenditure of the principal requires a vote of at least two-thirds of the each house of the state Legislature. No more than 15 percent of the principal of the Legacy Fund may be spent during a biennium.
Schmidt said the earnings from the Legacy Fund must be transferred to the state’s general fund at the end of each biennium. She said the legislation that governs the Legacy Fund states the State Legislature may spend it on certain items, but there is room in the wording for spending those funds on other items in the state.
“Talk to your (state legislators about what your needs are. This is your money,” she said.
Schmidt said since being elected in 2004 the office has changed as the oil economy of western North Dakota started booming.
“When I started as state treasurer, I didn’t have one accountant working for me,” she said. “Now, I have five.”
She said a big challenge for her and her staff is explaining how the state gets money from oil and gas production and extraction taxes, where that money goes and how it is spent.
“We have a flow chart on our website that helps explain what happens with that money, that’s how complicated it is,” Schmidt said.
As to why she ran for state treasurer, Schmidt had a simple answer: “I love money.”
“I love working with money, I love what I do,” she said.
Clarice Liechty, a Rotary Club member, asked Schmidt why counties like Stutsman are often left out of allocations from the state’s Oil and Gas Impact Grant Fund.
“We’re impacted by what is happening out west,” she said. “We have people coming here from out west and our fire and police departments are being impacted. We should be getting some of those funds.”
Schmidt said the way the legislation was written for the Oil and Gas Impact Grant Fund, those funds are first distributed to communities most heavily impacted by the oil boom, which are generally in the western part of North Dakota. She agreed with Liechty that all of North Dakota is being impacted by oil and gas production in the western part of the state.
Schmidt serves on the state Land Board, the body that decides which communities will get funds first from the energy impact grant.
“If it comes down to getting a fire truck for a community in oil country or in Jamestown, oil country will get it first,” she said.
Schmidt said she has heard talk of state legislators wanting to establish a similar type of fund for North Dakota communities outside of the Oil Patch.
Schmidt said anyone who has questions about how the state spends its money should visit the State Treasurer’s website, www.nd.gov/ndtreas.
Sun reporter Chris Olson can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org