Last month, I alerted you to the introduction of a bill (HB 1398) that would create an entirely new tax on water used for industrial purposes.
Since that point, the bill has been heard in the House Natural Resources Committee, and the bill’s Republican prime sponsor (Rep. George Keiser of Bismarck) suggested that the bill be amended to apply to only water used by the oil industry.
The intrigue surrounding this bill has been something else. In the now four legislative sessions that I have been observing and/or lobbying, never have I seen Republicans get up in committee and not only support a tax increase, but in this case, support inventing a tax on a renewable natural resource that has never been taxed before (and to the best of anyone’s knowledge, never been taxed in any state).
While many legislators, including one of those that sponsored the bill (Rep. Jim Schmidt) have said they didn’t really intend to create a tax, the fact remains that several legislators are promoting this bill as a serious policy initiative. Furthermore, the practice of introducing legislation that is not intended to pass is a very dangerous practice since it could end up passing, even if by accident.
As a result, the North Dakota Watchdog Network has launched a radio ad calling on the legislature to rethink this idea of taxing water.
While this bill continues to move through the legislature, and we try to figure out the real intent of this bill, it is important to remind legislators that someone is watching them – and raising taxes in North Dakota, when we have massive surpluses just does not make any sense.