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North Dakota Capitol in Bismarck. Forum News Service file photo

North Dakota ends budget cycle ahead of general fund projections

BISMARCK — The state of North Dakota ended the 2017-19 budget cycle 5.4% ahead of its general fund revenue forecast, the state's top budget official told lawmakers Wednesday, Aug. 28.

The general fund exceeded the March legislative revenue forecast by nearly $250 million for the biennium that ended June 30, largely thanks to a larger-than-expected transfer of Legacy Fund earnings and more robust collections of sales and income taxes.

More than $455 million in Legacy Fund earnings were transferred to the state's general fund in July. Voters created the oil tax piggy bank in 2010, and lawmakers plan to solicit ideas from the public on how to use earnings generated by the fund, which is valued at more than $6 billion.

Office of Management and Budget Director Joe Morrissette described the revenue forecast for 2017-19 as "conservative" but not unreasonable.

"If we're going to miss the Legacy Fund earnings amount ... you want the miss to be that direction," he said.

Meanwhile, the state nearly refilled its rainy day fund after lawmakers raided it to balance the books amid severe budget woes brought on by a downturn in oil and farm commodity prices.

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