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Measure 2 needs close scrutiny

By Staff | Mar 12, 2012

The Measure 2 (M2) proposal to eliminate property taxes which will be on the June primary ballot has generated much discussion all across North Dakota. This dialogue is evidenced by the organizations that have come out either for or against the measure.

In recent weeks, we have presented as guest columns a few of the viewpoints out there. We have done this because this measure proposes tax reform that will affect residents of North Dakota for a long time to come. We can’t emphasize enough the seriousness of this issue.

On one side is Empower the Taxpayer (ET) which proposed the measure. On another side is Keep It Local (KIL) which is opposed to M2.

Measure 2 is worded much like an earlier amendment, proposed by Representative Dan Ruby, that was defeated by the 2009 ND Legislature.

This initiated measure (M2) would amend sections 1, 4, 14, 15, and 16 of article X of the North Dakota Constitution and repeal sections 5, 6, 7, 9, and 10 of that same article, eliminating property taxes, poll taxes and acreage taxes, effective January 1, 2012. The measure would replace the lost revenue with allocations of various state level taxes and other revenues, without restrictions on how these revenues may be spent.

We are not against reform. We try to keep an open mind about it. New ideas can be good. Change can be good.

However, change of this magnitude deserves our full attention. Our system of taxation may need changing, but we will need to know specifics about how this will affect our state as a whole in the long run. We are not sure anyone knows the answer.

In Pierce County, we know that the total tax dollars used by the county for 2011 from taxes on 10 different utility companies was $964,747.98. That is a lot of money to replace by undisclosed “other sources of revenue” (ET) and that is only one county in North Dakota.

Schools in Pierce County were funded by property taxes from those same 10 utility companies to the tune of $508.156.58 in 2011. Fire departments in Pierce County were funded from property taxes at $17, 323.16. Townships which always seem short of funds for their needs, were funded with $58,696.00 and that is divided by 30 townships in just one county in the state. The cities in Pierce County received $19,049.36 in 2011 from property taxes. The county received $360,782.40, again a lot to replace. These figures are just a tiny glance from one county and there are 52 more counties in North Dakota.

Getting people’s attention with Measure 2 is okay. However, we think that it is only a first step in a much longer process, if indeed residents of North Dakota want to change the way we are taxed. We, as a state, need to explore all the options for other sources of revenue before we stick our necks in the noose, so to speak.

It is good to read what Empower the Taxpayer has written in a small book, Property Tax Revolution, which they are selling at their website. However, be aware that the money from the book goes to support their cause. We challenge them to donate one of those books to every library in the state so that every taxpayer, rich or poor can read it.

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