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Letter to the editor: Department will seek new opportunities for tax relief

This month the Office of State Tax Commissioner released sales tax figures, which again show a vibrant economy for our state. Third-quarter taxable sales, a broad measure of the state’s prosperity, grew 2.4 percent over the huge growth we have already experienced during the same quarter in 2011 and 2012. We are seeing growth across the state, but not only in the west. Fargo was up 4.05 percent, Grand Forks was up 3.79 percent, and West Fargo was up 7.9 percent.

Industries across North Dakota are flourishing — from manufacturing and technology to agriculture and energy, the strongest drivers of our economy. The robust economy has led to record tax revenues and the ability for our state to invest in itself while creating funds to benefit generations to come. This strong economic activity has allowed the North Dakota Legislature and the governor to usher in $2.4 billion in property and income tax relief since 2009.

The growth of our economy extends from our state’s industries and businesses to employees and citizens. Per capita personal income in North Dakota has grown faster than any other state, improving our standing from 40th in the nation in 2006 to fourth in 2012. Average income on tax returns, after deductions and exemptions grew 22 percent in one year alone, from $60,947 in 2011 to $74,221 in 2012. Importantly, the effects of strong oil and gas sectors are fueling wage growth across the state and across all income levels.

The fundamentals of North Dakota’s economy are strong today and are the basis to predict continued growth for years to come. Our energy industry will continue to grow over the coming years, transitioning from exploration to production.

This transition will continue to drive the state’s construction and retail industries as tens of thousands of individuals choose permanent careers in western North Dakota, fueling new home construction and offering new opportunity for retail and service businesses, both large and small. In the meantime, strong performance in our state’s agriculture, construction, manufacturing and technology sectors will keep our economy diversified and healthy.

The Office of State Tax Commissioner is focused on managing the collection of revenue in an accurate, effective and efficient manner. We strive to identify new opportunities for tax relief while ensuring our state is sufficiently funded to meet the infrastructure and services needed for a booming economy. At the same time, the state needs to continue investing in education and economic development to ensure today’s prosperity continues to be enjoyed by future generations.

North Dakota has a bright future ahead. I appreciate the opportunity to join the leaders working to efficiently and effectively manage our state during this time of great prosperity.

(Rauschenberger is the North Dakota tax commissioner)