In Bismarck today legislators met to discuss a new report from the state’s Office of Management and Budget projecting a $1.6 billion budget surplus, and this quote from Jerry Kelsh (D – District 26) caught my eye.
“I think it’s good news for the property tax payers,” Kelsh told the Associated Press. “We’re going to be able to help them some more.”
What Kelsh is talking about is the roughly $752 million in “property tax relief” proposed by Governors John Hoeven and Jack Dalrymple and approved by the legislature in the 2007 through 2011 sessions. Yet, despite this spending (it’s not tax relief but increased appropriations to the local level to buy down local property taxes) North Dakotans are anything but satisfied with their property tax bill.
Though a measure to eliminate property taxes entirely was defeated on the ballot this June (Measure 2), most political observers in the state agree that North Dakotans do want property tax relief. But the “relief” they’ve gotten over the last four years hasn’t worked. Property taxes keep going up.
Here in Minot city leaders are considering property tax increases that would represent a roughly 8.5% increase in mill levies (not counting big increases in valuations most property owners got hit with as well). In Burleigh County (Bismarck) commissioners just got done approving a property tax increase.
This same story can be told across the state. Despite gobbling up $752 million in appropriations from the legislature intended to buy-down property taxes, the bill property owners in this state are asked to pay gets bigger. And what is the only solution being proposed right now? Governor Dalrymple wants another big, fat appropriation to the local governments, this time to the tune of $445 million, which would bring the total spent on “property tax relief” since 2007 to $1.197 billion.
Not only are tax payers are taxpayers on the hook for all that state spending on the local level, but they’re not even getting property tax relief from the local governments anyway. This tax relief isn’t lowering anybody’s tax burdens.
North Dakotans rejected the elimination of property taxes. Fine. But clearly, if we’re to achieve real tax relief, we’ve got to try something different than what Dalrymple and other state leaders are proposing.