Rob Port, Minot
Measure 2 was put on the ballot by a small committee of volunteers and the signatures of tens of thousands of North Dakota citizens. Measure 2 is being opposed by a coalition of special interests and unions who are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on their campaign to keep property taxes in place.
One part of that coalition are government associations, representing the interests of local governments, who say that abolishing property taxes would mean a loss of local control. Yet, the local governments punted on the property tax problem years ago choosing to demand a solution from the state Legislature which complied with a tax shift that has the state government buying down property taxes at the local level (which is basically what Measure 2 does, except that Measure 2 goes all the way).
Another part of the coalition are supposedly "pro-business" groups like the Chamber of Commerce who argue that Measure 2 is a dangerous proposal put on the ballot by extremists. But there should be no group that knows the advantages of property tax relief like the Chamber of Commerce, which lobbies for special exemptions for its members all the time. The truth is that groups like the Chamber would rather the government pick and choose who pays the property tax rather than give all North Dakotans a permanent exemption.
The AARP is a part of this coalition, too, and has argued that property taxes don't hurt the state's elderly citizens who live on fixed incomes. They note that very few people ever have their property seized by the state for non-payment of property taxes. It seems to me that even a few people losing their homes that way is too many, and their argument is a bit misleading. Most who lose their homes to rising property taxes do so because they're forced to sell once they can no longer afford the tax.
Paying the property tax is like paying rent on your property to the government, forever, with non-payment resulting in loss of your property.
The coalition opposing Measure 2 would have us believe that cops and firefighters and snow plows would go away, or would at least be in shorter supply, if we got rid of property taxes. But property taxes are just one way for the government to raise revenues. A very expensive, very inefficient way that is an affront to not just property rights but privacy rights as well. Any tax that requires government agents to look through your home on the off-chance that you might have made some improvements is poor public policy.
Property tax revenues can be replaced by other more efficient, more respectful, more economically-healthy taxes.
North Dakota is in a unique, once-in-a-lifetime situation. Thanks to the oil boom and the economic prosperity it's brought we can eliminate a tax entirely, and set North Dakota apart from every other state in the nation, something that might be nice should oil production falter in the future. North Dakotans shouldn't be frightened into passing on this opportunity, because if they pass they can be certain that the state's political leaders, who have been grasping for a property tax solution for years now, won't come up with anything better.