Reflecting on a tax meeting

A meeting about taxes…sounds like fun, huh? I thought it was going to be. In fact, I fully expected to learn a little, have some questions answered, and walk away with new insight, new information and a new attitude. I was wrong.

As I mentioned before, I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to be in favor of the state of North Dakota doing away with property taxes. I wasn’t convinced that Measure 2 (as it’s called) was the answer we were all looking for, when trying to consider relief for tax payers. And now I’m most certain of it.

So what happened? To tell you the truth, not much. And that was the main problem. Instead of answering questions, there was a lot of double-speak, dancing around the issue and turning the blame to the legislature. To top it all off, they cut off the conversation after an hour-and-a-half. That included introductions, each side giving their case and a wrap-up. Definitely not enough time to truly discuss the issue.

But the final comment summed it all up (let me paraphrase it for you): So, the legislature is our problem, and the solution is to give them full control?

Doesn’t sound any better today than it did a week ago.

The nail in the coffin for me? Something that wasn’t even brought up at the meeting: let’s say that this measure is passed. Let’s say that after six months or so, we realize that it’s a terrible mistake and it’s costing our state way more than we expected. Can we change it the next go round? No. According to Article III, section 8 of our current state consitution, “a measure approved by the electors may not be repealed or amended by the legislative assembly for seven years from its effective date, except by a two-thirds vote of the members elected to each house.”


We want real change? Elect people not afraid to make real change. Don’t go throwing out everything we have in exchange for promises that are made without a plan in place.

Our state is on a solid footing economically. And in today’s economy, it seems to be a world-class mistake to jeopardize that.

This funny thing called taxation

There is a group of people looking to put North Dakota on the map again. This time it’s not about being a “happy” state, about low unemployment rates, about economic development. No, this time, they would like to see North Dakota as the first state to abolish property tax.

They claim that passing Measure 2 will make North Dakota truly “legendary.” And that it’s time that we throw the albatross of property taxes off of the tax payer and back on to the state…where it belongs! (Imagine loud voices cheering, pitchforks waving, torches in the air!)

But wait a minute…we should take the local tax revenue, and return it to the state? And let the state be responsible? Seriously?

I am all for tax reform, as would any reasonable person. I’m all for recalculating the numbers, so that no one economic group is unfairly taxed. I’m all for changes and discussions and working towards a better tomorrow. But throw our whole tax structure just because we couldn’t find a more reasonable answer? No thanks.

The way that property taxes are calculated is complicated. I get that. The way that you figure out if you pay property taxes is simple. If you buy property, there will be a tax. And out of that tax comes local improvements. County roads, township roads, school funding, local museums, local extensions services…the list continues on.

Again, if the purpose of this measure was to make a point about property tax reform, point is made. Thank you, let’s have a discussion and work on it. Let’s move forward and get something hammered out in writing. Something that works.

The thought of truly eliminating property taxes is ridiculous and a mistake of epic proportions. And it wouldn’t even be a mistake just for our generation. It would be a disaster for generations to come.

Yes, North Dakota has a budget surplus. Yes, our state is booming and growing and doing all things that are pointing to a strong future for the next generation. Let’s build upon it and leave our state in better condition for the next generation. Not set it up to fail before they even have a chance to have a voice.

If Measure 2 proponents want to see changes made at the capitol, great…let’s get some changes made. Let’s cut spending and prioritize our funding, and work with our legislators to reach these goals. That’s our job as voters and constituents, right?

How does it work that the proponents of Measure 2 blame our legislators, tell the world that they’re not doing a good enough job…and then give them the sole responsibility to not only fund the state-run programs, but ALL local programs as well!?!

Perhaps I’ve spent too many years on the farm, but I do believe our country was built on the principle that if you do not like who’s representing you at the local, state and federal level, you will have the opportunity to make changes. Has something changed recently?

Do you have questions about how this would work? So do I. Are there answers? Not really. And that scares the bejeebers out of me. I’ve been on the Yes to Measure 2 site a few times, and the FAQ seems to be broken. (How ironic.) (As of 4 p.m. 3/20/12…the FAQ was back up and working.) And I’ll post a link to the Keep it Local group, just to be fair…although I will admit that I haven’t been on that site as much. I prefer to hear what the people behind the measure have to say, and then make my own decision. And I encourage all voters to do the same.

So post your questions, and I’ll do the legwork to answer them, best I can (including links, facts, etc.)…and if I can’t find the answer, maybe I’ll just delete this blog post and start from scratch. That seems to be the answer of the day.

Yes, the world we live in is a crazy one…and it just got a little crazier.