Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Will North Dakota eliminate property taxes?

North Dakotans are voting today.  Or, more accurately, some North Dakotans are voting today.  Among the items on the ballot is a ballot initiative called "Measure 2" that would prohibit property taxes in North Dakota.  The initiative is the result of a group called "Empower the Taxpayer."  The group believes that the power to tax property means that the citizens of North Dakota do not own their homes.  Instead, the various entities that can tax property own the homes of everyone in North Dakota.  Mr. Torvik has more of a background with philosophy so he may understand this point better than I.

In any event, when I heard about this ballot measure, I assumed it would pass.  One reason for this assumption is that North Dakotans used a similar ballot measure to ban governments from using parking meters.  That ban has held up for over 60 years.  Also asking people to vote on whether to eliminate a tax they pay seems like it would be as simple as shooting fish in a barrel.  However, this assumption may be wrong as the New York Times article on the Measure 2 has links to two different polls that suggest Measure 2 is going to lose and lose big. 

What explains this?  One reason would be that property taxes are used by local governments to fund, among other things, schools.  If the property taxes are eliminated, it will be up to North Dakota's state government to find a way to fund schools.  Possibly through increases in the state's sales tax.  Some people think that local control is better than state control.  Those folks may be unlikely to support Measure 2.  Moreover, as the Seattle Times points out, a wide swath of the North Dakota political spectrum opposes the measure.  The North Dakota Chamber of Commerce, the North Dakota Public Employees Association, North Dakota's Governor Jack Dalrymple, and most members of the Republican-controlled legislature are against Measure 2. Opposition to Measure 2 extends to the North Dakota PTA, the North Dakota Soybean Association, the North Dakota Beer Distributors Association, and even the North Dakota chapter of AARP.  I am not sure if the fact that the Chamber of Commerce and the public employees union both agree a ballot measure is bad is either a sign that Measure 2 is a really bad idea or a really good idea.  It will be interesting to see if the polling on this issue is accurate.  If not, it will be interesting to see how North Dakota handles the challenges that come from not having property taxes.

1 comment:

  1. Measure 2 got crushed at the polls. The Fargo Forum reports the final tally as 77% against the measure. http://www.inforum.com/event/article/id/364019/


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