Measure 2 backers ignore real problemsThe debate over Measure 2, the initiated measure on the June ballot that would eliminate all property taxes in North Dakota, has taken strange twists and turns. There is a kind of “you’ve-got-to-be-kidding!” feeling in the debate, fed in large part by the illogic of proponents’ arguments.
By: The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, The Jamestown Sun
The debate over Measure 2, the initiated measure on the June ballot that would eliminate all property taxes in North Dakota, has taken strange twists and turns. There is a kind of “you’ve-got-to-be-kidding!” feeling in the debate, fed in large part by the illogic of proponents’ arguments. Even former Gov. Ed Schafer, who never saw a tax cut he didn’t like (even if it was less than thoughtful), has come out against Measure 2.
As if to concede the case against the measure is sensible, proponents have gone to court in an attempt to muzzle opponents. They have done so, they insist, because they want to stimulate debate. They seem to be living in Jerry Seinfeld’s bizarro world.
Nearly everyone who has thought it through has come to the conclusion that the measure is a recipe for tax chaos. It’s not that reducing property taxes is a bad idea. A case can be made that property tax relief would be a good thing for the state (although we’ve seen significant property tax relief in recent years via the school tax replacement mechanism). Rather, the measure is the wrong way to go because it willy-nilly eliminates property taxes and requires the Legislature to replace lost local revenues.
The Legislature? That repository of deep thought and high wisdom that can’t seem to wrap its policy-making arms around prosperity? That collection of visionaries that regularly pursues policies designed to undermine a couple of remarkable decades of higher education progress? Those good folks who expend a lot of hot air savaging the federal government but tend to be first in line when Uncle Sam is handing out the goodies? Is that where Measure 2 fans want local schools, parks, counties, townships and water boards to go to determine budget priorities?
Therein rests the “you’ve-got-to-be-kidding!” factor.
Measure 2 backers don’t want to talk about what likely will happen to state government if the measure is approved. Led by anti-government types, the Measure 2 crowd will not acknowledge what just about everyone in state government and the business community says will happen: Rather than reduce the size of state government, the Legislature probably will have to establish a fully staffed bureau or agency to administer hundreds of local budgets. In effect, budget priorities from a school, county or city could be vetoed or manipulated, not by locally elected officials, but by relatively disinterested legislators or unelected bureaucrats.
And what is the proponents’ response to such concerns? They mount an attempt to muzzle opponents of the measure by going to court. Instead of listening to local officials and others who have analyzed the potential effects of Measure 2, they aim to shut ’em down because they don’t like what they say.
Well, maybe that’s all they have left when their position is as solid as Red River mud, as weighty as goose down and as clear as grass fire smoke.