Let’s Be Clear: Governor Dalrymple’s Budget Includes Zero Tax Relief


The precise use of language is vital in politics. After all, that language is the basis upon which the laws we must live under are built, so what words mean is important.

Which is why it’s frustrating when publications like the Bismarck Tribune insist on calling Governor Dalrymple’s property tax shift tax relief.

Property tax relief has been long sought after in North Dakota. The vehicle for that relief in the last several sessions has been local school districts — buying down property tax that funds primary and secondary education. There are proposals that will be before legislators for the state to fund about 80 percent of local school spending, in order, to continue to provide property tax relief.

In Gov. Jack Dalrymple budget that state funding of local school district takes the $342 million in relief from two years ago and adds another $714 million. There’s no doubt, this is real property tax relief, and the idea is to make it permanent.

What Dalrymple is doing isn’t lowering the burden of government. That can only happen when government gets smaller. Rather, the governor’s tax shift simply hides hundreds of millions of dollars worth of local spending in the state budget.

We are taking tax dollars we all pay to the state, and using them to pay off local spending. That might seem like tax relief in the short term, thanks to the rivers of oil tax revenues flowing into state coffers, but what happens if/when those rivers dry up? The state is still going to be obligated to this local spending, and the burden for that obligation is going to fall squarely on the back of statewide taxpayers.

Milt Friedman was fond of saying that what the government is taxing us doesn’t matter. If the government grows that represents more spending we’re going to have to pay for, whether it be now or at some point in the future. I think that wisdom applies to this situation. Taking money from local spending out of state tax revenues, instead of local tax revenues, doesn’t reduce the overall burden of government.

Besides, the history of these state buy-downs of local taxes isn’t very good in North Dakota. Despite spending some $752 million on property tax relief since 2007, North Dakota property taxes keep going up. What makes us think this latest buy-down is going to change that trend?

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

Related posts

  • kevindf

    This is no surprise; war has been declared on the private sector by those who lollygag on the state and municipal payrolls until they can start collecting their fat pensions.

  • Roy_Bean

    “We are taking tax dollars we all pay to the state, and using them to pay off local spending. That might seem like tax relief in the short term, thanks to the rivers of oil tax
    revenues flowing into state coffers, but what happens if/when those rivers dry up?”

    Even if those rivers never dry up, how is this different from the president asking “the wealthiest among us” to pay more? Socialism is socialism. Our state is about to slide down the slope of taking from each oil well, according to it’s ability to pay and giving to each political subdivision according to it’s needs.

  • Big Bully

    With 752,000,000 dollars given out since 2007 by the State of ND and using a population of 690,000 people (strong for 2007 -2012) that’s $1,089.85 per person. Less than half of the population are real property owners so that amount would double to $2,179.70 per real property owner. I don’t know about you, but I’m still waiting for an explanation from my school district as to where that money went. It sure didn’t show up on my property tax statements

    • http://sayanything.flywheelsites.com Rob


  • Mike Alligood

    The reality is this…Jack Dalrymple like a few other legislators are Democrats. They run as Republicans to win in North Dakota, but make no mistake, they are Democrats. Moderate Dems maybe, but still lefties. They are targeting the SoS office next.

  • Paul W

    We have enough money in this state to eliminate income tax or property tax. Let’s do some of both. The tax cut could have a clause that eliminates the tax cut if oil and coal revenue falls below a certain amount. But right, tax relief fo ND residents is a must.

    • LibertyFargo

      Let’s eliminate income tax.

      I think property tax can be executed well. In theory I like the idea of “local control” with local property taxes. The “Keep It Local” folks played it as a scare card and didn’t really offer a solution for taxation in ND. The reality is that “local control” isn’t working as it should.

      Let’s fund the state needs (not kickbacks to localities) through state sales tax. Fund local needs through local property taxes and any local sales tax approved of by the taxpayers.

      Plan your budget around those revenues.

      Now… if we adjust the WAY we do property taxes… such as why the same body is doing both property valuations AND rates.

  • Sarge57

    You hit the nail on the head. If you spend other peoples money you are still spending. Feeding the pig. The local people will talk about the levy not rising but they will increase your property level and you will still pay more. So they get more money from both sides and they act like tax cutters. ridiculous. The PIG just gets fatter and the local government acts like saints. Pray for our country as most people think the federal money is free money and they also think the state money is free. What ever happened to small government and self reliance. Amen!

  • furnace

    I’m sick of paying for full health insurance for all of our state employees – full & part time.
    All legislatures also get full health insurance converage – go figure?? Let’s do what Alaska did – give every person in ND a check each year for all the oil money going into the state coffers. My real estate taxes went up this year – go figure that also.

    • headward

      Instead of giving money out to every citizen of the state, we should be stop taxing the citizens. The state seems to give money to everybody but their citizens. Look at higher ed giving free tuition to out of staters but rarely to the ones that are instate or even staying here. People from MT and Canada don’t have to pay sales tax but we have to. This doesn’t make sense. I say make them pay double and citizens that live and work here don’t pay anything. Quit shitting on ND citizens.

  • VocalYokel

    “Zero Tax Relief”

    That’s twice as much as I expected from Spendrymple.