Friday, April 26, 2019 - 02:25 pm

State legislators who voted to create a $50 million endowment for the proposed Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum joined Gov. Doug Burgum today as he signed the bill into law and thanked the assembly, calling it “a historic piece of legislation that’s going to be transformational.”

The state-funded endowment will be created if $100 million in private donations is first raised for construction of the library and museum in Medora, on the doorstep to Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Burgum said the signed bill is “a challenge to donors everywhere” to help make North Dakota only the 11th state to host a presidential library. The project has the support of the Roosevelt family,

“This is the place for this presidential library. We’ll tell the story not just of Roosevelt but of the people of North Dakota, and we’ll tell that story to generations going forward,” Burgum said. “We’ll be forever grateful for the Legislature’s courage and resilience to find a way to seize this historic opportunity.”

Burgum stressed that the $50 million endowment will always be held by the state Department of Trust Lands. The fund’s earnings will be used for operations and maintenance of the library and museum, but only after the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation has raised or secured binding pledges for $100 million, he noted, calling it a “brilliant funding strategy.”

The endowment was an amendment to SB 2001, which is the Governor’s Office budget bill. House members passed the bill 76-16 and the Senate approved it 34-13 this week.

“This is a historic day for North Dakota, and I’m really thankful for all the people that supported this project,” said Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson. “This is a legacy project.”

“We all have that Rough Rider spirit,” said House Majority Leader Chet Pollert, R-Carrington. “And so I’m honored to be part of this.”

Speaking to the bipartisan passage of SB 2001, House Minority Leader Josh Boschee, D-Fargo, said it was “the work of working together” that led to a strong “yes” vote in the House.

The $50 million endowment will come from a $35 million Bank of North Dakota loan and $15 million from the state’s general fund. Of the $15 million, $9.8 million is unspent funds designated for a presidential library by previous legislatures, and $5.2 million is from higher-than-anticipated revenues from the current 2017-19 biennium.

Burgum noted that no dollars will be appropriated from next biennium’s general fund revenues or Legacy Fund earnings, so the project did not compete with any 2019-21 appropriations. He praised the Legislature for funding priorities including health care, behavioral health, workforce development, education, corrections and infrastructure.