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House kills K-12 funding, property tax relief bill on second try

BISMARCK -- Reversing a vote from Thursday, House lawmakers today defeated Gov. Jack Dalrymple's proposal to increase state aid to K-12 school districts while providing about $714 million in property tax relief.

Lawmakers spent the first hour of their last legislative day debating House Bill 1319, arguing whether it had the right provisions to provide property tax relief, though the bill's supporters continually said it was an education funding bill, not a tax relief bill.

The vote tallied 46-46 with two not voting, it needed 48 votes to pass.

The state currently spends $3,980 per student, the bill would have bumped that to $8,810 per student during the first year of the biennium, an increase of $4,830.

Moments after the vote, Democratic leaders issued a news release calling the bill's defeat, "legislative malpractice from a caucus leader and a group of followers who have become absolutely unglued," referring to House Majority Leader Al Carlson, R-Fargo.

"This is not a game, this is serious," said Democratic leaders. "This threatens one of the most basic functions of government -- the public education of North Dakota children. We urge Representative Carlson to reverse course before further damage is done."

Rep. Rick Becker, R-Bismarck, came out against the bill during its original debate Thursday because it doesn't have enough tax reform.

He muffled Friday's argument that many said the bill needed to be passed since it was the last day of the session.

"When it comes down to doing the right thing, it shouldn't matter how long it takes," he said.

Rep. Mike Nathe, R-Bismarck, chaired the bill's conference committee. Pushing for the bill, he asked the House body where their plan was for property tax relief.

"We had a whole year to come up with a property tax relief plan," he said. "Now we come up with it on day 80, I don't see the logic in that."