The issue of property taxes in the most recent Legislative Session brings back memories.
Five years ago North Dakotans did the unthinkable and rejected an initiated measure to eliminate property taxes.
As part of the campaign to end the immoral and abusive tax, a video containing the story of Audrey Barnhart was released to the public that illustrated the horrible position a person can be put in when they can no longer afford to pay their property taxes. I’ll attach the video to the end of this article if you’re interested in watching.
Audrey has since passed away after a battle with lung cancer. She was a teacher, mother, and loved the outdoors.
As Audrey herself explains in the video, there came a point where she had to choose between paying her property taxes or her cancer treatments. The one choice would cost her quality of life and the other would cost her the home that she loved.
Thankfully, the very movement seeking to eliminate property taxes is the same one that rallied together to raise money for Audrey so that she didn’t have to make that choice. Through their fundraising efforts, Audrey’s home was saved. She spent the remainder of her days there until she passed away at her home on June 14, 2013– almost a year to the day after North Dakotans defeated the initiated measure proposing the elimination of property taxes.
No person should have to face the choice that Audrey Barnhart did. The fact that she was put in such a situation is a clear indication that we are NOT the owners of our homes. We are mere tenants and the government is our landlord.
I was recently shown a Notice of Foreclosure sent by a North Dakota county to a reader of The Minuteman. In reading it, it was clear to me that property ownership is merely an illusion. We do not truly own "our" property. We are simply permitted to use it as long as we pay our yearly rent.
The Google definition of "foreclosure" is a fascinating one:
"The action of taking possession of a mortgaged property when the mortgagor fails to keep up their mortgage payments."
So, who truly owns your property? On a mortgaged piece of property, you pay the bank. They loan you the money and hold title to the property until such time they are paid off with interest. Anybody that’s honest with themselves knows that they don’t "own" the property until the final mortgage payment is made. Failure to pay means that you don’t have use of the property anymore. The bank forecloses and sells to someone else who will pay.
In a very real sense, this isn’t all that different from property taxes. Except mortgage payments to a bank eventually end. Property taxes typically don’t. Because of that, property taxes are really more like a perpetual rental payment than a mortgage. Yet, in both cases one thing is evident… the property is not yours.
Inevitably someone will argue that such a tax is a "necessary evil". I reject that argument. Property taxes are completely unnecessary. Not only do they often prop up and encourage bloated government, but they do so at the expense of one group – the "property owner" – over all the others.
If you hold fast to the idea that the revenue generated by property tax is indeed necessary, then there are other ways to generate and collect that revenue. Ways that are not confiscatory in nature and do not put people’s property in jeopardy. Ways that do not pick on one group of people over another.
The message sent to Audrey Barnhart by her local government was clear… Pay the rent (tax) or get out. The only thing as atrocious as this was the fact that so few North Dakotans listened to proponents of abolishing property taxes. Too many decided that it was better we pay a yearly rent than to truly own our homes. People like Audrey were said to be the exception– as if that made it anymore acceptable. For that, we should hang our heads in shame and embarrassment.