North Dakota has the rare boon of having a state budget that enjoys a nice little reserve, and as such, some of its residents say they shouldn’t have to pay property taxes any more. It’s not unheard of to scale back property taxes — California is one example of a state with lower taxes after passing a voter proposition — but the debate is stirring up emotions nonetheless.
Proponents of a proposed amendment to the state’s Constitution to ban the property tax say they want to be secure in home ownership –Â they argue it’s unpredictable and inconsistent, reports the New York Times, and makes homeowners into renters.
“I would like to be able to know that my home, no matter what happens to my income or my life, is not going to be taken away from me because I can’t pay a tax,” said one fan of the idea.
On the other hand, opponents of the measure, which will be voted on as part of an election Tuesday, including the North Dakota Chamber of Commerce and the state’s largest public employees’ unions say it would disrupt things like how the state would make up the $812 million difference, turn things upside down in the capital of Bismarck and make it tricky to build new schools or hire public servants.
“This is a plan without a plan,” said the president and chairman of the North Dakota Chamber of Commerce, adding that the property tax issue does need addressing in general. “But this solution is a little like giving a barber a razor-sharp butcher knife – and by the way, this barber is blind – and asking him or her to give you a haircut. You’ll get the job done, but you might be missing an ear or an eye.”
Polls indicate that the ballot measure likely won’t pass, as polls show a majority of voters are against the idea.
Gov. Jack Dalrymple, a Republican, is one of those opposing the property tax ban. He says the idea that the budget surplus from oil drilling is enough to cover property taxes for cities and towns statewide without having other taxes go up is false. Certain funds are legally tied in to specific purposes and can’t just be shifted around willy nilly.
“It’s mind-boggling, really,” he said, in an interview, of the effects of such a ban. “We’d be changing everything, frankly.”
The attempted ban might fail, but Dalrymple recognizes that the state’s citizens are angling for some sort of change.
“I have to say that we totally understand that North Dakotans are very concerned about their property tax payments” he said. “You have a tension there, and people say this can’t keep on.”
North Dakota Considers Eliminating Property Tax [New York Times]