BISMARCK (AP) - Supporters of tax cuts said Tuesday the North Dakota Legislature should permanently reduce income taxes by at least $150 million, which is a larger reduction than lawmakers are presently considering.
"We would hope that the Legislature would realize that not doing this would be a very disappointing lost opportunity," said Dustin Gawrylow, director of the North Dakota Taxpayers Association.
The association and other conservative groups held a state Capitol rally on Tuesday, buttonholing lawmakers to argue that the GOP-controlled Legislature was more inclined to spend a larger share of the state's estimated $1 billion surplus than return some of it to taxpayers.
Brett Narloch, director of the North Dakota Policy Council, which advocates tax cuts and government spending reductions, said lawmakers should set a goal of eliminating North Dakota's income taxes on individuals and businesses.
"Whether it's eliminating some taxes, cutting them in half, chopping them up, whatever it is, we think that the taxpayers of North Dakota deserve major tax relief," Narloch said. "We think at this point in the legislative session, that opportunity is slipping through the fingers of state legislators."
The Legislature's most recent status report for its 2011-13 budget lists $4.02 billion in proposed general fund spending over the next two years, which is a 23.8 percent increase over current levels.
The sum includes almost $342 million in state subsidies to help schools reduce their property tax bills, and $370.6 million for repairing state and local roads in western North Dakota's oil-producing region.
Many lawmakers argue the property tax reduction initiative and increased state spending on road repairs have broad support among North Dakotans, while the state's income taxes are not considered onerous.
Rep. Eliot Glassheim, D-Grand Forks, referred to the lobbying effort during a House speech on Tuesday in support of the state Department of Transportation's budget bill.
"I hope that those people who are wandering around outside these halls, complaining about the huge increase in spending, will realize that $370 million ... is being spent on road projects which we all agree are needed, necessary and desired by our citizens," Glassheim said.
At a news conference in the Capitol's Memorial Hall, Gawrylow and Narloch said they favored a package of income tax reductions that was first approved in the North Dakota House.
In separate bills, the House endorsed a permanent, 4.9 percent flat corporate tax rate that exempted the first $75,000 of corporate income from tax, and a 15 percent decrease in individual income tax rates that shaved the top tax rate from 4.86 percent to 4.13 percent.