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Unfunded mandates fall to local governments


Rep. Craig Headland’s letter on Sept. 9 stated how he is proud of the progress to lower taxes.  Unfunded legislative mandates burdening real estate taxes have reared their ugly head again.

Now we have the Stutsman County Commission’s 2018 budget. We actually decreased taxes. Property values did not rise. The city and school district are not so lucky. But there are some painful and hard to fund requirements in the budget to cause problems in the near future due to the unfunded mandates from the 2017 Legislature.  

Biggest is funding Social Services. The Legislature promised to take over the cost along with county commissions’ authority to levy. The 12 percent property tax write down from the 2015 session funded Social Services nicely. The 2017 Legislature took the 12 percent out. They were to hold “counties harmless” in the new bill, but took that out. The county is hung with $257,039.

The commission ordered a zero budget increase in all departments, resulting in a restricting of service for those less fortunate who will “fall between the cracks.”

Extra election requirements of voter verification, inspection and equipment funding were not handed down from the Legislature.

Hiring new employees at the same starting pay as those employed causes a problem that we had to deal with a few years ago. Imagine a new employee’s wage the same or higher than an experienced employee’s wage. Back then, it took a many dollars to stretch out the bunching at the bottom of the pay scale. Dedicated 20-year-plus employees do not get recognized with a pay increase in 2018. Health insurance premiums continue to increase.

There is no state funding for roads this year. None. Deteriorating county roads will remain on the wish list. Legislators appropriated $10,000 for townships, but Gov. Doug Burgum line item vetoed it. Almost all of the townships are at the levy limit.

Why are we not getting funding help from the state? The 2015 Legislature gave the money away!

The decrease in the oil extraction tax from 6.5 percent to 5 percent, coupled with a decrease in corporate and personal income tax, has cost the state $13 million per month. The oil extraction tax was passed by initiated measure of North Dakotans in 1980. The will of the people was ignored by the legislators. The 1.5 percent decrease was attached to a bill with no public hearing in the waning days of the session. This is money from the ground, a one-time harvest, and the legislative majority gave it away. So, unfunded mandates are passed to the local governing authorities. The ripple effect has impacted all the citizens of Stutsman County.

Next year is an election year.  

Marks is a Stutsman County commissioner.