Omdahl: Mortgage measure unnecessary, harmless
Measure No. 2 on the November election ballot is a constitutional amendment proposed by the Legislature to prohibit the state or any political subdivision from imposing a tax on mortgages.
Here’s an example of how a mortgage tax works. If a person purchased a house for $200,000 and needed a mortgage in the amount of $100,000, a one-time tax would be imposed on the mortgage amount.
State and local governments now imposing a mortgage tax include Minnesota, Alabama, Florida, Kansas, New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Virginia. Some other states impose a recording fee.
In Minnesota, the rate is .0023 with an additional levy of .0001 in Hennepin and Ramsey counties. On a $100,000 mortgage, the tax would be $240.
New York is a little more expensive. The state collects 75 cents per $100 of the mortgage, with another 25 to 50 cents in various counties. On a $100,000 mortgage, the purchaser could end up paying $1,000.
The North Dakota realtors convinced the 2013 Legislative Assembly that future legislatures may be seized by taxmania even though revenue from oil and gas taxes is predicted to remain high for another 60 years.
Measure No. 2 falls into the category of unfounded fear, resulting in the same panic that spawned several other ballot measures in recent years.
Farm folks were afraid they would lose the right to farm so they secured a constitutional amendment to protect agriculture, this in a state that pampers, honors and worships farming.
The hunting people feared losing their hunting rights so they got a constitutional amendment to guarantee the right to hunt, this in a state with more gun owners than found in North Korea.
Sheriffs became alarmed and got constitutional language to guarantee that sheriffs will forever be elected in every county of the state. This in a state that won’t reduce the number of elected officials even though it has twice as many as the average state.
So now we worry about passage of a mortgage tax in a state that has more money than it knows how to spend or manage. Obese chance! (It used to be a fat chance but this one is obese.)
But the precedent has been established. Citizens don’t trust the government; the Legislature doesn’t trust the Legislature. In our distrust, we are passing constitutional amendments to allay unfounded fears.
If we are going to laden the constitution with legislative material, here are a few more suggestions.
We need a constitutional amendment to prohibit the legislature from adopting an Islamic Shariah laws. Christians may be outnumbered in the decades ahead and the Legislature may fall in the hands of radical Islamists.
We should have a general constitutional provision reiterating our commitment to the right to vote. After all, the more restrictive “easier than pie” ID voting requirement may be just the first step toward abolishing elections.
A constitutional amendment declaring that Rugby shall forever be the Geographic Center of North America would be good. This is necessary because someone in Jamestown made the comment that the Center would be nice located beside the big buffalo.
Get the idea? We will never adopt Shariah laws, end voting, move the Geographical Center, or impose a mortgage tax.
It may not be necessary but it isn’t going to harm anyone, so here is one measure some folks may support just to calm the fears of their neighborhood realtors. We need more measures like that.
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