Petition campaign brings its case to Minot

Proposed measure would eliminate property taxes

Jill Schramm/MDN Rick Becker speaks at an End Unfair Property Tax event in Minot Wednesday.

About 60 people gathered in Minot Wednesday to hear from the chairman of a petition campaign for a measure to eliminate property taxes in North Dakota.

Former state legislator Rick Becker of Bismarck, chairman of End Unfair Property Taxes, said the proposed constitutional measure would preclude political subdivisions from using the property tax, beginning in 2025, if it makes it to the ballot and is approved by voters. It needs 31,164 petition signers.

The measure also would require the Legislature to fund political subdivisions based on their tax levies for their 2025 budgets.

Becker said the measure tells legislators, “You have been spending like drunken sailors. We, the people, are going to force you to give us the tax relief that we deserve. You are going to need about a billion dollars that you are overspending and apply it for property tax relief.”

Becker said eliminating property tax and relying on other forms of taxation gives taxpayers more of a voice in the process.

“This is the type of governance we want, where people have a voice,” he said. “You have little to no voice with property tax, and it shows. There’s a reason that property tax is the number one complaint of North Dakota citizens and it has been for decades and continues to be. It’s because you don’t have a voice. This brings greater local control – meaning the individual.”

Mike Blessum of Minot cited City of Minot figures showing only 15% of the city budget is funded by property taxes, leaving most of the budget unaffected by the measure. He also pointed out that Minot School District residents still would pay property tax until long-term bonds associated with school construction are paid off. The measure would not affect existing property-tax obligations.

Minot School District also has maxed out its levies, which sets the property-tax base as high as possible for replacement dollars, he said. Others in the audience noted it creates a disadvantage for political subdivisions that don’t maximize their levies. There also was a question about how well the property-tax replacement will work as communities and the economy changes over the years.

“The state is not prohibited from doing more, but the least they can do – and what I expect they will do – is the least they can do,” Becker said, explaining that the “least” is the amount requested by political subdivisions for 2025. “All the increases beyond that, with growth of population and so on and so forth, is going to come from other revenue sources – special assessments, fees and sales tax. Keep in mind, when you have more people coming in, there’s more growth. There’s more economic activity. There’s more sales. There’s more people to pay these assessments.”

Becker said property-tax elimination will be an economic boon and major job creator for North Dakota.

Minot legislator Lori Van Winkle said the state revenue coffers will fill faster with tax dollars because of the economic growth created by those former property-tax payments circulating through the economy in the hands of the residents. The bucket of property-tax replacement dollars the Legislature will need will fill itself almost by half, she said.

Becker acknowledged the voter defeat of property tax elimination in 2012, blaming the loss on lack of funding for proponents and strong funding and distortions by the opposition.

He said support should be there for a plan that provides continued funding levels for political subdivisions while increasing economic development and growth in the state. But he added a challenge remains in getting the signatures and the votes.

“People are so entrenched into the status quo,” he said. “There seems to be a pandemic of lack of vision.”


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