Photo: Rev. Cody Schuler( fourth from the right), The Gathering, Fargo, North Dakota and members of the Legacy Fund Initative present the recommendations of a white paper developed by the 24 member group at the capital in Bismarck, North Dakota. Photo by Jenny Hallenbeck.
Rev. Cody Schuler, lead pastor at The Gathering in Fargo, ND, serves as a member of a group that will guide the future use of the North Dakota’s Legacy Fund. The 24-member group of North Dakota public, private, community and nonprofit leaders and citizens made several recommendations on how the money from oil and gas tax revenue should be managed and put to use.
Schuler describes his selection and role with the group. “The goal was to find a diverse group of folks from across the state. There was a desire to have representation from the faith communities. I had worked with some of the people involved before and they asked me to join the group. I approached the role as someone who wanted to learn before I spoke--listening before commenting.”
Voters in North Dakota established the Legacy Fund in 2010. The fund currently holds more than $2.2 billion and is projected to reach $6 billion by 2017, the year that the funds will become available for expenditure. Thirty-percent of oil and gas tax revenue is deposited into the fund.
The Legacy Fund Initiative met several times throughout the year and gathered input at listening sessions throughout the state and an online survey. “There was a lot of input and a lot of information. It was a little overwhelming to take in all the information especially related to the budget—to get a grasp of the complexity of funding flow and investments,” Schuler noted.
After input and discussion the group developed a vision and recommendations for the process of managing the Legacy Fund. “Our vision is that North Dakota’s Legacy Fund will provide a permanent, sustainable resource for future generations that fosters self-sufficiency, creates opportunity and enhances quality of life for all citizens,” the Legacy Fund Initiative participants stated in the newly-released report.
Schuler and participants proposed the establishment of a North Dakota Legacy Foundation to involve the legislative and executive branches of government to administer the Legacy Fund initiatives and guide the use of annual Fund earnings, subject to oversight by the Legislature. The group recommends a comprehensive strategy and action plan for building a world-class pre-K through 20 education system as the first Legacy Foundation priority.
Project participants also recommended three ongoing initiatives for the proposed Legacy Foundation:
One of the keys to success of the program from Schuler’s vantage point is having a clearly defined, ethical process for the Legacy Fund. “I spoke out on the need to fund quality educational opportunities in North Dakota. It is also critical to be transparent in the process of managing and disbursing funds. “
The report will be presented to the North Dakota Legislature who will act on the recommendations. The white paper/ report will also serve as a tool for state of North Dakota to inform the citizens about the Legacy Fund.
The work of the group projects a 25-year strategy. “We reached conclusions and recommendations through a consensus process. It was refreshing to see such a diverse group of people work together to create a plan that will enhance the quality of life for all North Dakota citizens. Faith based organizations could learn from the process,” said Schuler.