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It’s all about oil

2/21/13 (Thu)

t’s all about oil
Legislators debate tax issue

By STU MERRY

The saying goes: Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting. But in this case, oil replaces the whiskey and water. It’s not for drinking, but it sure seems like it’s for fighting.
At this past Saturday’s Legislative Forum in Garrison a number of topics were addressed – including water. But the one issue that kept creeping to the top was the oil extraction tax bill (SB 2336).
Attending were District 4 legislators Sen. John Warner, D-Ryder, and Rep. Kenton Onstad, D-Parshall.
The two gave their perspective on the session.
Contrary to how District 8 legislators thought last week – providing incentives for the oil industry to keep production levels up on older wells, Warner and Onstad said it would be prudent to not reduce the tax. One reason, the two said, is that, if passed, water funding could be impacted.
The two think the state is becoming too dependent on oil taxes. Onstad asked why should the state give big oil corporations tax breaks when most are from out-of-state. His concern is information given to legislators from oil lobbyists could sway their vote. He also said that there’s a perception that if oil companies aren’t given a break, they will pull up rigs and go elsewhere.
“With construction and development, they aren’t going anywhere,” Onstad said. 
States Attorney Ladd Erickson attended the meeting. He addressed another topic, asking if landowner protection is in the cards in any of the oil extraction legislation.
Erickson said there’s a fear the state is catering to the oil companies while throwing landowner rights out with the bath water. Warner said there needs to be an education process for landowners.