ND Senate Proposes Property Tax Elimination Study


Senator Dwight Cook (R), District 34, has filed SCR 4021 late Friday before the Legislature convened for the week. Co-sponsored by Sens Tom Campbell and Rich Wardner, and Reps Wes Belter, Craig Headland, and Majority Leader Al Carlson; SCR 4021 would if passed and accepted by Legislative Management as a study:


That the Legislative Management study the feasibility, consequences, and desirability of elimination of property taxes; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Legislative Management report its findings and recommendations, together with any legislation required to implement the recommendations, to the Sixty-fourth Legislative Assembly.

Quite honestly, I don’t know what to think about this SCR. Upon initial review it looks like an excellent study project for Legislative Management to take on, and no matter the reasons for proposing it, I do hope it passes and is selected for an interim study. No matter how you felt about Measure 2 from the June 2012 election, it opened up impassioned debate on both sides that probably had both of them stretching reality a bit (although I can’t help but point out the Keep It Local ND coalition brought together some very interesting and highly suspicious alliances). A study may help clarify the facts on this debate, so long as the study is done in a unbiased manner.

I can’t help but think that will be the rub. If passed and adopted, will this be a study that truly looks at “the feasibility, consequences, and desirability of elimination of property taxes”; or will it be one which is set up from the start to ensure that the results of the study guarantee a conclusion showing property tax elimination is unfeasible, undesirable, and contains overly dramatic consequences which may or may not be the reality?

I also wonder if this study proposal, and the lateness in which it has been filed, is a signal that significant property tax reform is not in the cards this legislative session; despite overtures to the contrary leading up to the 63rd Assembly. Is this study nothing more than an attempt to kick the property tax reform can down the road (yes I know that expression is getting old, but the ND Legislative Assembly excels at it. Just look at pension reform) another session? If reform doesn’t happen, will this study be used as a way to attempt to defeat another Measure 2 Property Tax Elimination effort through having a new argument lined up basically saying to the citizens:

“Hey, we know we need to look at Property Tax Reform. We have a study going on right now, but it is too early to consider elimination until the conclusions are made. We can then implement those conclusions in the 64th Assembly. But for now, lets not eliminate property taxes.”

I can’t help but think this is the case, based on the trends developing in the current session. We will probably learn a lot based on the testimony given by the Association of Counties, League of Cities, and ND Chamber of Commerce.

I think SCR 4021 should pass, and be accepted by Legislative Management for an interim study. But if it is, lets hope this will be an honest assessment (bad pun) of property taxes in the state and not a political smokescreen to give the appearance of doing something about property tax reform. Elected officials at all levels of government should not take the Measure 2 vote as a sign that the current system is something acceptable to the people of the state.


LegitSlater is a SayAnythingBlog.com contributor who focuses on features primarily pertaining to state and local government as well as political parties, but has been known to dabble in other areas. LegitSlater has also been known to pinch hit for Rob when he is out and about in his worldly travels, or attending the occasional Yankees-Twins series. LegitSlater's numerous awards include the personal satisfaction received from informing the vast readership of SAB, spurring respectful debate, and hunting the trophy sacred cows which have been otherwise deemed off limits by the traditional media, elected officials, and the political parties.

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  • WOOF

    Everyday they’re shuffilin.

  • RCND

    Of course it is a smokescreen. There was never any real intention to do anything about property tax reform in the state this session except make us all think they would be doing something about it. A lot of good a republican majority is doing us.

    • jimmypop

      nor should there be at the STATE level. local government is none of their business. they need to focus on cutting THEIR spending and the taxes THEY control. whats wrong with asking them to live by the rules they want the locals to live by?

      • RCND

        If that is the case the state needs to get out of the property tax “relief” business too. I would buy your argument if the rules for property taxes were all strictly written at the local level, but they are not. There really is no true local control when it comes to property taxes.

        • tony_o2

          Then we need to work on removing the State from all things related to property taxes. Give the local governments full control over property taxes.

          • http://nofreelunch.areavoices.com/ Kevin Flanagan

            The state did that to mask the obscene property taxes caused by the education cabal.

          • tony_o2

            So let us fix the spending problem caused by the “education cabal” instead of just shifting their funding from one segment of taxpayers to another.

        • jimmypop

          correct. in fact they have no business getting that money to begin with. it should have never left our pockets.
          they need to reduce income tax or slaes tax. but they wont because they cant take credit for it every two years.

      • http://sayanything.flywheelsites.com Rob

        The problem, is, the locals keep blaming them for property taxes. And what a great deal the locals are getting. Huge amounts of money from the state without having to tax anything.

        • Drain52

          I think allowing local govs the right to have or not have PT is brilliant. But there are several things that state would have to do first:

          1-The state would have to give cities and counties other means of funding gov–income or sales tax, special fees, etc.
          2-The state would have to start spending the $2.6B in the School Land Trust Fund on SCHOOLS.
          3-The state would have to start paying for state mandated services (i.e. senior, social and health services.)

          With those three things, PT could be cut to about 1/3 of what it is now. That would just leave funding for local services

          But doing this at the local level would be the death knell of rural and small-town ND. The big cities could easily replace PT with other taxes or fees. They would then become the magnets for new business and development and siphon off what’s left of small-town vitality. I believe that a vibrant rural and small town ND is essential to a healthy state for everyone.

  • jimmypop

    good golly…. the concept of centralized government gets CRUSHED and people in bismarck STILL want to look into a centralized government? whats wrong with these people? where are the conservatives?

    • tony_o2

      The ones who call themselves conservatives are too busy drooling over the State surplus. Money can buy anything….

      • http://nofreelunch.areavoices.com/ Kevin Flanagan

        When I studied finance and accounting, I was taught that budgets should balance. A surplus is evidence of over taxation and fiscal incompetence by state bureaucrats and the legislature.

        • awfulorv

          What school you go?

          • http://nofreelunch.areavoices.com/ Kevin Flanagan

            How long have you been on the state government teat?

        • tony_o2

          Of course the State budget should balance. The conservative solution would be to reduce or eliminate some of the State taxes and bring the revenue down to balance. The liberal solution is to find ways to spend or distribute the surplus and bring expenditures up to balance the budget.

          Property tax is not a State revenue. Therefore any property tax relief from the State can only be considered an expenditure. Property tax relief has to come from the local level.

          But there is always the argument that this is not possible because the State sets the rules for local property taxes. If this is the case, then we need to get the State out of it and let the locals do what they need to do.

    • http://sayanything.flywheelsites.com Rob

      Dalrymple’s plan is to take over school funding and eliminate part of the school property tax. So, the Measure 2 people were crazy extremists for wanting property taxes gone because “local control” and stuff, but Dalrymple isn’t?

      • jimmypop

        no, hes crazy just like you guys are.
        but hes selfish (as are the legis) as well….. he wants to make sure he can get the credit for giving us our money back.

  • dakotacyr

    We call that “death by study.”

  • http://nofreelunch.areavoices.com/ Kevin Flanagan

    With this sort of tax system chaos, who can do any sort of financial planning?

    Maybe that’s the whole goal. (:^(

  • yy4u2

    They will define it. Citizens loose n lobbyists booze (with the legislators).

  • http://sayanything.flywheelsites.com Rob

    I’m at a point where I think the state should do nothing on property taxes. No buy down, nothing.

    Let the locals figure it out, and give us real tax relief on income taxes or the sales tax or something.

    • tony_o2

      give us real tax relief on income taxes or the sales tax or something.

      I’m with you on that. Use the surplus to give back the taxes that were over-collected.

      This will allow the people to have the money necessary to pay their local taxes to pay for local expenses. And if the people still feel that their local governments are over taxing them, and that they cannot afford it, then they need to change the local spending plans.

    • jimmypop

      youre finally getting it. welcome on the bus.

    • Yogibare

      Question? How can the local taxing authority do much about tax relief? They can cut their levies or cut the assessed valuations—but—where does the money come from if the property tax is reduced or eliminated?
      What am I missing here?

      • jimmypop

        it then comes from the state of north dakota. thats why measure two failed by such a massive number. the state takes everything over leaving local folks helpless.