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Dalrymple forming task force on taxes

BISMARCK — Gov. Jack Dalrymple is forming a task force to study permanent property tax reform in North Dakota.

Dalrymple will announce the details of the task force, including its makeup and goals, during a press conference at 9:30 a.m. today at the Capitol, according to a news release from the governor’s office.

House Majority Leader Al Carlson, R-Fargo, said the chairmen of the House and Senate taxation committees, Rep. Wes Belter, R-Fargo, and Sen. Dwight Cook, R-Mandan, have been invited to serve on the task force.

Carlson said he’s “not a huge fan” of executive committee task forces and noted the Legislature’s full interim Taxation Committee already is studying the growth of property taxes and property tax relief.

“It’s duplicative. I’m not sure why he’s doing it, but, you know, he has that prerogative. And if there’s going to be guys at the table, we’ll make sure our guy’s at the table,” Carlson said.

Dalrymple spokesman Jeff Zent said the governor will explain how the task force’s work will enhance the study already under way.

“This work is not going to conflict with anything the taxation committees are doing or anything like that,” he said.

The task force will make recommendations to the Legislature.

In May, state lawmakers approved more than $850 million in property tax relief for the 2013-2015 biennium. The relief consisted of $656 million through a new K-12 school funding formula and $200 million through a state-paid tax credit. Lawmakers also provided $200 million in individual income tax relief and $50 million in corporate income tax relief.

Critics have said it didn’t go far enough.

Charlene Nelson, chairwoman of the nonprofit coalition Empower the Taxpayer, which pushed a citizen-initiated measure to abolish property taxes onto the June 2012 statewide ballot, said Monday she didn’t know about Dalrymple’s task force and that no members of the nonprofit coalition had been invited to participate.

Voters rejected the initiated measure, known as Measure 2, by a vote of 77 percent to 23 percent.

Despite not knowing the details, Nelson said she wasn’t encouraged by the formation of the task force, saying that what Dalrymple refers to as tax relief is “just offensive” to people whose property tax bills have continued to stay the same or increase.

“He and other political leaders promised that the 2013 Legislature would produce change, and they didn’t. They’ve only made things worse,” she said.

Empower the Taxpayer has held several meetings across the state in recent months to highlight state government spending and advocate property tax reform. Nelson said the coalition currently has no plans to pursue another initiated measure, “but we are hearing from a lot of people that there’s a groundswell demand for something in 2015, so we’ll see what happens between now and then.”

Carlson said property taxes have gone down overall, but the relief provided through the school funding formula hasn’t been as great as anticipated in some districts and needs to be refined.

Mike Nowatzki

Mike Nowatzki reports for Forum News Service. He can be reached at (701) 255-5607.