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TJ Jerke, Forum News Service, Published March 21 2013

Oil tax changes shot down in North Dakota

BISMARCK – House lawmakers shot down a proposal to change the state’s oil tax structure, a bill many were worried would have threatened the long-term fi-nancial impact of oil production.

Senate Bill 2336 would have ended a series of 10 tax incentives in the tax structure intended to help draw oil companies to the state and maintain their viability, while lowering the oil extraction tax from 6.5 percent to 4.5 percent for new wells built after 2017.

The measure would have increased state revenues by $4.2 million in the 2013-15 biennium since the 10 incentives would have been closed.

The measure failed with an 87-6 vote.

Rep. Craig Headland, R-Montpelier, carried the bill to the floor. He said the tax structure does need to be tightened up and resolving the issue is a work in progress during the session. He added that the House Finance and Tax Committee, which did not recommend the bill, wanted a revenue-neutral tax policy.

The Senate passed the bill 34-13 in late February.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Dwight Cook, R-Mandan, thought the bill had a good hearing Tuesday, but said he has realized over nine sessions in the Legislature that it’s difficult to know when a bill will die.

“Most people liked the bill,” he said. “It became a very polarized issue, which is unfortunate.”

Cook added that House Bill 1234, introduced by Rep. Roscoe Streyle, R-Minot, is awaiting action by the Senate Finance and Taxation Committee, which Cook chairs. That bill also seeks to change the oil tax structure. Even though he could, Cook said he has no plans to offer amendments to include language from his bill.

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