How Do You Cut A Tax For People Who Don’t Pay That Tax?


When it comes to property tax relief, North Dakota Democrats seem intent on extending any tax relief to renters. Former gubernatorial candidate Ryan Taylor made that a key part of his property tax proposal on the campaign trail. Now legislative Democrats, including Taylor’s replacement in Democrat leadership in the state Senate, are responding to Governor Dalrymple’s property tax plans, introduced as a part of his executive budget today, saying they’d like to see renters given relief too.

“Senate Democratic leader Mac Schneider says Dalrymple’s plans for cutting school property tax bills should benefit renters as well as property owners,” reports the Associated Press.

The problem is renters don’t actually pay property tax – not directly, anyway – so how can you give them relief from a tax they aren’t a part of? Unless you just start redistributing other people’s money to them and calling it tax relief?

Make no doubt about it, renters wold benefit from property tax relief. Rent probably wouldn’t go down, but rent would undoubtedly grow less slowly. For landlords the property tax is overhead. Shrink overhead and they’re going to do more things with that money. Maybe they’ll build more housing, increasing supply and removing upward pressure on rents. Or maybe, with less expenses going out the door, they’ll be less likely to raise rents when other expenses increase.

Remember, housing is a competitive market like any other.

If Democrats are going to argue with the governor’s property tax plan, they ought to focus on the fact that it’s not actually property tax relief. Not only is the governor’s plan a massive shift in education funding from the local to the state level (I thought we were keeping it local?) but it’s actually a shift in direct tax burdens from property owners to all North Dakotans.

You could argue that Dalrymple’s plan shifts burdens from property owners to renters by shifting the burden for a big chunk of locals pending from local property owners to those who pay other state taxes like the income and sales taxes.

Not that I’m keen on giving the Democrats any tips on how to proceed, but they could make some hay out of pointing out that Dalrymple’s tax relief isn’t really relieving much in the way of tax burdens.

Rob Port

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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