Oil tax changes shot down in LegislatureHouse lawmakers shot down a proposal to change the state’s oil tax structure, a bill many were worried would have threatened the long-term financial impact of oil production.
By: By TJ Jerke, Forum News Service, The Jamestown Sun
BISMARCK — House lawmakers shot down a proposal to change the state’s oil tax structure, a bill many were worried would have threatened the long-term financial impact of oil production.
Senate Bill 2336 would have ended a series of 10 tax incentives in the tax structure intended to help draw oil companies to the state and maintain their viability, while lowering the oil extraction tax from 6.5 percent to 4.5 percent for new wells built after 2017.
The measure would have increased state revenues by $4.2 million in the 2013-15 biennium since the 10 incentives would have been closed.
The measure failed with an 87-6 vote.
Rep. Craig Headland, R-Montpelier, carried the bill to the floor. He said the tax structure does need to be tightened up and resolving the issue is a work in progress during the session. He added that the House Finance and Tax Committee, which did not recommend the bill, wanted a revenue-neutral tax policy.
The Senate passed the bill 34-13 in late February.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Dwight Cook, R-Mandan, thought the bill had a good hearing Tuesday, but said he has realized over nine sessions in the Legislature that it’s difficult to know when a bill will die.
“Most people liked the bill,” he said. “It became a very polarized issue, which is unfortunate.”
Cook added that House Bill 1234 is awaiting action by the Senate Finance and Taxation Committee, which Cook chairs. It also seeks to change the oil tax structure.
Even though he could, Cook said he has no plans to offer amendments to include language from his bill.
Voters may soon be able to obtain a free non-photo identification card from the Department of Transportation as a way to fulfill a proposed ID requirement at the polls.
House Bill 1332 would require an ID as a way to eliminate using voter affidavits, which allow voters to cast a ballot by signing the back affirming they legally can vote.
The affidavits practice is being questioned by Secretary of State Al Jaeger and other lawmakers because it is time consuming, costly and an election is often decided before an affidavit is counted.
Sen. Dick Dever, R-Bismarck, chairman of the Senate Government and Veterans Affairs Committee, said concerns that some will be disenfranchised from voting because of the ID requirement are erroneous. Some say the requirement would make it difficult for college students and the elderly, for instance, to obtain one because they do not have a permanent address or are unable to.
“The secretary of state and DOT are willing to work with the people,” said Dever, who heard the bill in committee Thursday. “I think voters will go to the trouble to obtain an ID.”
The DOT would lose about $245,000 a biennium since it would no longer be able to charge $8 per ID. It also would cost about $12,000 to administer the new law.
No action was taken by the committee.
Med school tax
Taxpayers statewide will continue to help fund the state’s only medical school at the University of North Dakota.
The House on Thursday voted down House Concurrent Resolution 3007, which would have removed the state’s only statewide mill levy that is included in the state constitution. The levy provides about $3 million a biennium to the medical school.
The resolution failed 54-38.
The proposal would have been placed on the 2014 general election ballot.
Rep. William Kretschmar, R-Venturia, told the House that the tax should remain because the school is an important part of the university system.
He said the issue made it to the 1980 ballot but was defeated by the voters.