North Dakotans, rejoice. When the state Legislature convened last week for a quick special session, lawmakers passed two plans that will put a few extra bucks in your pocket.
Both bills earned approval from the Legislature and were signed Friday by Gov. Doug Burgum.
It’s been a tough 18 months for North Dakotans, who have endured the economic downturn brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic while also seeing energy prices and the cost of everyday goods steadily moving upward.
Burgum threw his weight into the income-tax proposal and showed his pleasure Nov. 12 when it gained approval.
“This bill is a victory for half a million hardworking North Dakotans," he said. He thanked lawmakers for helping to put money "back into the pockets" of state residents.
The time was right for these moves, since the Legislature came into last week’s special session with $1 billion in hand, thanks to coronavirus relief aid from the federal government.
During a State of the State speech that opened the session, Burgum specifically called for tax relief, saying “we can afford to do it and we should do it. The hardworking taxpayers of North Dakota certainly deserve it.”
The governor originally sought up to $500 in income tax credit, per year, for 2021 and 2022 tax returns.
As outlined by the governor, and via a statement sent last week by his office: The state’s reserves are healthy, with the rainy-day Budget Stabilization Fund at a record-high maximum of $749 million. Further, the Office of Management and Budget projects a $600 million unobligated balance in the Strategic Investment and Improvements Fund and an unobligated general fund balance of $540 million by the end of the biennium.
For Burgum, it presented “a golden opportunity.”
Lawmakers didn’t bite on the governor’s suggestion of $500, but agreed with the idea nonetheless.
It doesn't mean a $350 check will arrive in North Dakota mailboxes. The perk will come after residents have prepared their state income tax forms. If they owe more than $350, the dollars are available to offset those costs. So a North Dakotan who owes, say, $500, will get $350 off that payment.
However, if a resident owes $150, the $150 bill will be erased, but that resident won’t get another $200 in cash or any sort of credit that can carry over. The benefit is for all North Dakotans, regardless of their income.
As for the Social Security tax change, it’s about time. North Dakota was one of just a handful of states that hadn’t yet done that.
For a session that seemed so focused on controversial topics of the day — legislative redistricting, vaccine and mask mandates and so forth — it’s a day-brightener to see these good-news issues emerge.
Credit goes to the governor and the lawmakers who pushed it through.
This other view is the opinion of the editorial board of our sister publication, the Grand Forks Herald.