Tax Commissioner Cory Fong – along with Rep. Mike Nathe of Bismarck, Senator Dwight Cook of Mandan, Senator David Hogue of Minot, and
Representative Wes Belter of Cass County – are looking ahead to the possibility that the Bush tax cuts may expire. If they do it would mean a return of the so-called “marriage penalty” which would result in a roughly $6.7 million tax hike for North Dakota households.
Fong and his allies in the legislature want to be prepared to offset that with changes to the state tax code:
Fong announced today that a bill has been sent to legislative counsel that would change the amount of the standard deduction for married filers submitting a joint return versus that of single filers. Under the current law that is set to expire the standard deduction is twice that of a single filer. According to Fong this creates parity between single and joint filers and reduces the penalty for filing jointly. …
Being proactive is a major concern according to Fong “We need to be proactive, especially in light of our hard work during the last two legislative sessions to provide meaningful and substantive tax relief to our citizens,” said Fong. “This is not the time to sit back and allow North Dakotans to be taxed any more just because of the action, or inaction, of Congress.”
I’m not sure how meaningful and substantive tax relief for North Dakotans has been in the last two legislative sessions. After all, the property tax relief package that was passed by the legislature really just bought down local property taxes with additional spending from the state level. It wasn’t tax relief, it was a tax transfer. A shell game, to put it another way.
Even so, if the Bush tax cuts expire at the end of this month the impact for North Dakotans – and indeed the nation – would be severe. Using North Dakota’s strong fiscal standing (thanks to the oil boom) to mitigate that impact is a smart move.
But let’s hope the Bush tax cuts stay in place, thus rendering this legislation unnecessary.
Update: By the way, credit for this idea may have to go to the North Dakota Policy Council which advocated for a plan very similar to the one Fong is now proposing back in August.