North Dakota Oil Tax Revenues Surge, Democratic Talking Points About Tax Cuts for “Big Oil” Hardest Hit


Kylie Oversen is the endorsed Democratic candidate for ND tax commissioner. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

To hear our friends on the left side of North Dakota politics tell it, back during the 2015 legislative session the Republican majority (with help from a couple of Democratic votes) passed tax cuts for “big oil.” According to them, these tax cuts have contributed to the state’s budget situation.

“We’ve been cutting our revenue sources—income tax, corporate tax, oil extraction tax—for a decade, and then appear to be surprised when we ran out of money and we had a budget shortfall,” Kylie Oversen, candidate for tax commissioner ant titular chairwoman of the North Dakota Democratic Party, said recently.

This isn’t true, of course. It’s a falsehood Democrats are hoping will become perceived as true if repeated often enough. Not only are oil tax revenues more than $1 billion higher – from January 2016, when the law went into effect, to present – than they would have been under the old tax code according to figures from the Tax Commissioner’s office but they’re coming in well ahead of legislative forecasts.

“North Dakota oil tax revenues surge ahead of forecasts,” reads a headline from my colleague John Hageman:

North Dakota’s oil and gas tax revenues have exceeded expectations so far this budget cycle, prompting tempered optimism from state lawmakers.

Oil and gas tax collections surpassed $1.4 billion through April, 22.8 percent above forecasted totals. That’s due to better-than-anticipated oil production and prices, according to a report sent to state lawmakers Friday.

The report covered the first nine months of the biennium that started in July 2017. Revenue collections reflect oil production and prices from two months prior.

You can read the full report below, but this table shows just how strong revenues have been. Revenues beat the forecast by 42 percent – or nearly $50 million – through April and are up more than $262 million over the forecast biennium to date.

If Democrats want to be critical of the way Republicans handled the budget they should point out that the majority party exploded the state budget during the oil boom years. The state saw a tidal wave of revenues flow in, and Republicans tried to spend everything bloating budgets to levels that have been painful to pull back from.

The problem for that tack is that, back in those heady days of soaring revenues, the Democrats wanted to spend even more.

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