The Secret Revolution in North Dakota

Charlene Nelson
North Dakota citizens may abolish property taxes, allowing them more control over government spending.  Nearly 30,000 signatures were collected to place the people’s initiative on the ballot in June, 2012 that would constitutionally abolish all property taxes in North Dakota.

This landmark measure supports property rights, small government and freedom advocates around the country.
If the initiative is successful, North Dakota will be the first state to abolish all property taxes, both state and local, and will provide a model for the other states to do the same.  North Dakota may be the first state to kick off the property rights revolution!
Since 1978 the state legislature has amended, altered or “reformed” property tax 134 times.

This tells us that the tax cannot be fixed.

Legislation to abolish property tax was introduced in the 2009 legislative session.  The bill was defeated.  There was even an attempt to turn the bill into a study to investigate the issue and that even failed.

Since the initiative qualified for the ballot, several city and county groups have come out in opposition to the measure, in direct violation of state law.  The hysteria coming from government leaders include threats that this will be the end of public education, fire and police protection will be terminated, and there will be no more roads (remember that roads are funded through the gas tax).

If the measure passes, two very important issues will be addressed in order to pare down the size of government and spending:

1. The initiative mandates that schools and local governments must be “fully and properly funded” before the state can address any other budgeting (like special interests).

2. The measure also states that all “legal obligations” must be funded.  Legal obligations are:

A.  Statutory — the things that the state has directed local government to fund.

B.  Contractual obligations — spending that the counties and cities have taken on through contracts   like bonds, special construction, etc.

After schools, local governments and legal obligations are funded and the real debate begins!  Does the city, county or state have the obligation to fund a museum or an art festival?  Most people would say ‘no’.  Does that mean that the local government can’t fund museums or art festivals?  This is an issue of real self rule and local control.  If the people really, truly feel they must have a museum or a new hockey rink, then they can vote themselves a new tax to fund it—a sales tax or user fee or special assessment or whatever.  They just can’t fund it with property tax.

These two points will spark a whole new level of public discourse on the proper role of government and citizen involvement.

In addition to forcing the state to prioritize spending, it will also compel them to scrutinize current and future spending, especially if they want to avoid increasing taxes.

According to the Beacon Hill Institute study on, there is no need to increase taxes to “pay for” the missing property tax revenues.  By putting an extra $3000-4000 in each family’s pocket, the state will enjoy an increase in sales and income tax revenues.  Businesses will invest more heavily in our local economy, while the need for some government employees will vanish.  The state’s economy will improve without increasing any taxes.

The national mainstream media is not covering this story.  The NEA has pledged $4-5 million to fight passage of the measure — this in a state where a Senate race costs less than $1 million.  They clearly see the national impact this measure will generate and want to stop it before any other states get any bright ideas.

North Dakota is one of the cheapest places to run a campaign, so if we get good support not only will this measure pass in our state, but we will see it being promoted in other states as well.

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