Official: Don’t pass Measure 2“Ill-advised” and “reckless” were just two of the words a North Dakota Chamber of Commerce leader used to describe Measure 2 at a presentation Monday at the Gladstone Inn & Suites.
By: Kari Lucin, The Jamestown Sun
“Ill-advised” and “reckless” were just two of the words a North Dakota Chamber of Commerce leader used to describe Measure 2 at a presentation Monday at the Gladstone Inn & Suites.
“I don’t think it’s a good thing,” said Andy Peterson, president of the North Dakota chamber. “I would urge you, at all costs, to vote against this measure.”
About 40 people attended the meeting, and a few spoke in favor of the measure, which would eliminate property taxes in North Dakota. It will be on the primary ballot June 12.
Bob Drake, of Valley City, said he believed that the Legislature would control the funding, but would not have ultimate control over the budgets for local governments, should Measure 2 pass.
“The person who controls the purse strings controls the budget,” Peterson replied. “… would you rather deal with your City Council on your budget or Bismarck?”
Peterson listed various concerns he and the North Dakota Chamber of Commerce had about Measure 2 — that it will not decrease taxes, simply shift them from property to other types of taxes, that they would cause a loss of local control, and that the Legislature would not be able to examine funding requests in a timely manner.
“What you’re really doing is, you’re taking local control and transferring it off to the Legislature,” Peterson said. “We don’t think that’s a good thing. In fact, we think it’s really, really poor.”
Peterson also said the oil industry is taxed “in lieu of” property taxes, and if property taxes vanish, oil companies could likely take legal action to try to get out of the taxes they pay in lieu of the taxes that no longer exist.
In addition, out-of-state property owners would no longer pay property taxes but would receive the same services.
“I think any time you lock tax policies into the (North Dakota) Constitution it’s not a good thing. The nice thing about the Legislature is, there’s some flexibility,” Peterson said. “… any time you lock something into the Constitution, it takes an effort to get it out.”
Peterson cited Minnesota’s system of local government aid (LGA) as an example of what could happen should the state be in charge of money allocated to other government agencies.
When Minnesota began to have budgetary difficulties, it cut LGA, leaving Greater Minnesota short on funding, Peterson said.
Dave Smette of Jamestown, former Jamestown Public Schools superintendent, said he believed that Measure 2 wouldn’t decrease government, but would increase it.
“Now if you want to have a whole new big government on a state level, you put this in place, because I guarantee you’re going to have umpteen staff trying to figure this out just for school districts,” Smette said. “My dissertation is on school finance. There is no way this can be equitably worked in this state under this system.”
Drake and former Jamestown mayor Clarice Leichty both said there were inequities in the existing property tax system.
“Valley City is 48 percent tax exempt. To me that says that’s very unfair, because if there’s a thousand people in Valley City and all of a sudden 500 of them are tax exempt, that means I’ve got to pay twice as much, and that’s not fair,” Drake said.
Peterson agreed there were inequities in the property tax system, and said the North Dakota Chamber of Commerce would prefer to see comprehensive tax reform rather than passing Measure 2.
The pro-Measure 2 side, represented by the North Dakota Taxpayers Association, will present its arguments at a forum yet to be scheduled in April, said Pam Phillips, chairman of the Local and Regional Issues Committee for the Jamestown Area Chamber of Commerce.
Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be reached at 701-952-8453
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