The ND House Tackles A Batch Of Property Tax Bills


Yesterday the state House addressed a slew of property tax bills (a full summary of the bills and outcomes below), including Governor Jack Dalrymple’s supposed “property tax relief” bill, which I thought was aptly characterized in this Grand Forks Herald headline:


The Governor’s property tax relief isn’t really tax relief at all. Not when spending burden is only being shift from local government to state government. We’re still paying for that spending, only through state instead of local taxes, and what’s more we’re shifting that spending away from the local government after we just had a property tax debate last year in which “keep it local” was the winning argument.

But I digress. What was much more interesting than Governor Dalrymple’s phony-baloney tax relief was the debate over HB1199, introduced by Rep. Jeff Delzer, which would have allowed for local government budgets to be referred to the ballot.

“We’re only about $1.6 billion away from taking over all political subdivisions,” Rep. Keith Kempenich said in favor of the bill, pointing to Governor Dalrymple’s supposed property tax relief. “We’re two thirds of the way there already.” Unfortunately the bill failed on a 38-49 vote after some, including Rep. Curtiss Kreun and Rep. Scot Kelsh, argued that the bill would put too much burden on local governments.

Here’s the video of the floor debate:

It’s amazing how fundamentally our legislative leaders seem to misunderstand the property tax problem. High property taxes are being driven by growing local spending. The solution should be to make that spending more accountable – make sure the taxpayers want the spending they’re being taxed for – but the solution favored by Governor Dalrymple, and others, is to pour more money onto the local governments. Which not only doesn’t reduce overall tax burdens, but it isolates local government leaders from having to take responsibility for spending increases.

What impetus do local officials have to keep spending, and thus property taxes, in line when the state government keeps bailing them out? Why should they prudent responsibly when the taxpayers have no mechanism through which budgets can be challenged?

Anyway, here’s a list of the property tax bills that passed the House, some of which would limit property taxes going forward:

HB1319, introduced by Rep. Dave Monson, is Governor Dalrymple’s property tax relief bill. It passed on a 86-3 vote.

HB1465, introduced by Rep. Mark Owens, would have limited property tax mill levy increases to no more than 3% of the previous year’s levy (with some exceptions). It passed on a 63-23 vote.

HB1290, introduced by Rep. Jim Kasper, would limit the dollar amount increase in property tax levies to no more than 3% of the previous year’s total. It passed on a 57-31 vote.

HB1198, introduced by Rep. Craig Headland, would provide an 8.5% property tax credit and would require that property tax statements sent to property owners contain a line item noting that tax payer’s tax relief received from the legislature. The bill passed on a 88-0 vote.

Here’s what failed:

HB1199, introduced by Rep. Jeff Delzer, would have allowed voters to refer local government budgets to the ballot. It failed on a 38-49 vote.

HB1239, introduced by Rep. Ben Koppelman, would have limited property tax valuations to no more than a 3% increase over the previous year. It failed on a 1-85 vote.

HB1273, introduced by Rep. Jim Kasper, would have provided a 80% property tax credit (capped at $5,400) to property tax payers. It failed on a 32-54 vote.

HB1198, introduced by Legislative Management, would have also required that property tax statements contain a line item for “state-paid property tax relief” and would have provided a property tax credit of 10% for all property owners. It failed on a 6-80 vote.

Rob Port is the editor of 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.

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  • Game

    I am really glad that HB1199 failed. We don’t need direct democracy for every school board, small town, or county budget because a small percentage of people are ticked off about something. It would be a waste of time and money.

    Let the people we elect do the job they are elected to do. If you don’t like it, elect somebody else. Enough with the push towards direct democracy.

    • Rob

      I share your skepticism of direct democracy – I’m kind of for many of the bills in this session limiting the initiated measure process – but I’m not sure I’d put referendums in that category.

      This wouldn’t be voters budgeting at the ballot box. This would be a mechanism through which voters could give a budget an up or down vote.

      And still, the problem with property taxes is absolutely local government leadership. They’re spending a lot of money, and rather than holding them accountable for that, we’re trapped in this cycle where we keep asking the government to bail them them out.

    • RCND

      I don’t see referendum as direct democracy so much as an accountability measure on those who were elected democratically. It is not as easy as “elect other people if you don’t like it” many times. The people passing that budget may overall be good officials, but made a bad call on property taxes that the people need to correct, for example. I should also add that organized townships use the direct democracy method to approve budgets up front, and it doesn’t cause any problems. 1199 simply allowed the people to refer a PT raise if it was out of line

  • Drain52

    The real issues of PT were addressed in the bills that didn’t pass: out of control valuations and out of control budgets. Instead, the state tied our hands in trying to keep a handle on local budgets. Rob is right. The state allows local govs to hide their spending increases in the state budget and cripple our every effort to rein in local spending.

    • guest

      wait, what? the state ‘allows’? i ^&%$ing LOVE you “conservative” people. WOW!
      you are that whole level of measure #2 crazy that scares the *&^% out of
      people like me. your concern is spending? the state is what wrong with north
      dakota. look
      at local spending then look at state spending and tell me who has a spending
      problem. if your locals make you scared, the state spending will have you curled
      up in a ball in your basement crying like a child as you fear for your very

      and the THE STATE DIDNT “TIE HANDS”. the people you supported locally lost
      their election. that means you are on the wrong side this time. work harder for
      your team or run for election yourself next time. honestly, asking a alcoholic meth addict advice on how to cut down on your chocolate habit probably isnt a good first step on the path to getting help with your diet.

      hey, your concern is
      big, out of control spenders, right? why dont you people here ask the
      federal government to step in and limit state spending? maybe a cap at 3%. amiright? they are
      spending a %^$# of a lot more than local folks could DREAM of spending. let me know when that crazy train leaves the choo choo station.

      love this place.

  • Lianne

    I believe there was no discussion on HB1465, Owen’s remarks. He stated that was the beginning of property tax reform. Personally, none of this is property tax reform. It takes money from one pocket, transfers it to another pocket. In 10 years or so when the moeny isn’t rolling into the state, what will happen then? Will Dalrymple care? I don’t think so.

  • Marcus

    Fargo is a prime example of spend and tax, tax and spend.

    There should be some level of democracy to a point.

    Fargo Davies may well not have been built, especially in a known flood plain, if the local taxpayer would have had a say in the matter or properly informed.

    It seems like the larger the municipality, the more the expectation of taxing people for the “right to shop”…or live there.

    What really rankles me is the mentality of “the right to shop here…”

    When did “…appreciation for patronage…” turn into “…you’d better be thankful that you can shop here…?”

    At some point there needs to be accountability for the empty promises of how wonderful the various “taxes” with make things.

    • Kevin Flanagan

      These clowns only care about taking their fat pensions and moving to Florida.

    • jimmypop

      “There should be some level of democracy to a point.”

      there is…they are called elections. and if only more places acted like cass/ fargo and let people vote on their taxation (even if its project by project like the diversion). wed know where the majority stands on issues as well as funding for them. what a wonderful world, right?