A local interest group is pushing to get a referendum on the June 9 primary ballot to temporarily raise the state sales tax by a half cent to finance water projects throughout the state.

Mike Dwyer, executive vice president of the North Dakota Water Users Association, said increasing the sales tax to 5 1/2 cents from 5 cents for seven years would raise about $150 million to assist in building water distribution networks.

He said the money could be used to back bonds from the North Dakota Municipal Bond Bank.

"The Missouri River provides us with a lot of water resources, but the problem is getting it to the areas that need it," Mr. Dwyer said.

The association has identified various water projects around the state that -- if fully funded -- could cost as much as $1 billion. He also said that other state and federal funds would need to be identified to help pay for the projects.

The group must gather the signatures of 12,000 registered voters by March 12 to get the referendum on the ballot.

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