Measure 2 supporters say they might have lost round one, but they will be back.
Voters were rejecting the measure to eliminate property taxes by a 78 to 22 percent margin Tuesday night.
"This is just the first battle. We are going to regroup. We are ready to go for round two," said Robert Hale of Minot, who has been active in Empower the Taxpayer, which has pushed for the measure.
Dan Feldner/MDN • Char Towle, right, an election judge, explains the ballot to Paul Ness at Maysa Arena Tuesday morning. Maysa, the election site for southwest Minot, was jammed with people throughout the morning hours, with reported waits for those in line to vote around an hour. The crowds had thinned considerably by the afternoon, however, as people were able to vote in under 20 minutes.
"We have just begun this thing actually," he said. "We are going to continue working to make North Dakota a property-tax free state. We think that after people have seen what the Legislature does - and we believe won't do - I think they are going to be ready to accept this. We are just disappointed with the opposition - the fear mongering and deceiving and half truths."
Hale said most voters didn't read the measure or understand it, but Keep It Local, a coalition of about 90 groups opposed to the measure, cited the good attendance at debates and lively discussions.
This campaign was a "vindication of democracy in action," according to Keep It Local.
"The voters of North Dakota looked at this measure, understood the measure, educated themselves about it and at the end of the day, they rejected it because it was a flawed measure," said Andy Peterson, executive director of the North Dakota Chamber of Commerce.
Voters understood that putting such a measure in the state constitution would have negative repercussions, he said.
"You don't want to put tax policy into the constitution and take options off the table. Tax policy should be flexible," he said. "Voters are saying taxes need to go down and it needs to be in the hands of legislators."
In the debates on the measure held around the state it was clear that voters were interested in lower and more equitable taxes, Peterson said.
"If there's something good that came out of this, it sends a message that we need to be careful spending the citizens' money. We have to understand tax can't go up faster than people's incomes. We need to make sure that tax reform is what happens," he said.
Measure 2 called for replacing property taxes with funding from the Legislature, which obtains revenue through sales, income, oil and gas and other taxes, along with income such as lottery revenue. The measure directed the Legislature to establish a formula to "fully and properly fund the legally imposed obligations" of the political subdivisions. The political subdivisions would have sole discretion in how they spend their allocations.
Empower the Taxpayer argued that no new taxes will be required based on reduced government operating costs and increased income from other taxes. Hale noted that the state already is collecting billions of dollars in surplus.
Keep It Local argued that a one-size-fits-all formula for state revenue distribution to political subdivisions won't work and that budget decisions are better left to the local entities.
Hale noted that Keep it Local vastly out-spent Empower the Taxpayer, which influenced the vote outcome. Voters can expect another initiated measure and a chance to change their mind, he said.
"They are going to have another opportunity, and this time there's going to be a groundswell when people see what the consequences of this vote are," Hale said. "Our taxes are more than double what they need to be to cover what we need to be paying. I think people are going to finally figure that out."