Legislative Report: Tax reform efforts underway
Governor Dalrymple recently named a task force to identify “meaningful, long-term savings” for North Dakota taxpayers. Many different stakeholders will bring good knowledge as well as good questions to the discussion. Mike Montplaisir, Cass County Auditor, is one of the members. Others include the Bismarck city manager, the McKenzie County auditor representing the Oil Patch, the chairs of the Senate and House Taxation committees, the deputy ND Tax Commissioner and others.
Non-voting members are representatives of the ND Association of Counties, League of Cities, and Parks and Recreation Associations. These are all political subdivisions which levy property taxes to fund their budgets. The counties not only levy taxes, but distribute the money to the cities, school districts and others. School districts are not included, since their funding has been significantly addressed in recent sessions.
Two interim legislative committees are studying several other tax issues. It is, in my opinion, inadvisable to eliminate property taxes, which are the only way for many political subdivisions to raise funds. Taking that away may seem like an easy way to control taxes, but it costs money to support schools, parks, police and fire departments, cities, and counties. If we want the snow cleared from the streets as quickly as possible, there must be funding for the street department to do it. If we expect the fire department to respond quickly to a call, even volunteers need support for training and equipment.
One area being explored as a way to reduce property taxes is for the state to take over funding of county social services. It makes up about 1/3 of many county budgets, and it really is an unfunded mandate, because the state requires the counties to provide the services. It is, in my opinion, an excellent idea, and I hope that the change will pass in the 2015 legislative session.
Also being discussed is the “good news-bad news” of rising property values. It is good to have an appreciating asset, but the tax levies need to be at a lower rate in order to avoid the taxes creeping up.
Property owners have just received their 2013 tax bills, and most have found significant reductions this year, added to those of recent years. Legislative action has provided about $2.5 Billion in tax relief since 2009. Approximately $1.5 Billion is property tax reduction. $856 million of which is in the 2013-2015 biennium. .
It is often stated that income for the state is a 3-legged stool, with property, income, and sales taxes forming the 3 legs. It is important to keep them in balance, even if we reduce the amount of each during good economic times. Our economy is very strong now, but we must have a long-range view of the future for the state.
Your District 13 legislators look forward to hearing from you with your comments and questions. Check our District 13 Republicans Facebook page, or reach us at the following:
Senator Judy Lee
Rep. Alon Wieland
Rep. Kim Koppelman
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