Five years after Empower the Taxpayer’s failed attempt to abolish property taxes through an initiated measure in North Dakota, the issue is once again a hot topic across the state. A fact that proves what Empower the Taxpayer said all along leading up to the vote… property taxes cannot be fixed. They are inherently broken.
While acknowledging this fact, it is refreshing to hear the recent comments from Dickinson’s Mayor Scott Decker on the issue. Decker’s comments to the Dickinson Press cut to the heart of the fundamental problem with property taxes:
“I’m not a fan of property taxes. What I don’t like about property taxes is you can work your whole life and pay off your home and you don’t really own it. If you miss paying your tax payment someone else could own your home , if it was up to me I would get rid of them all together.” (Emphasis Added)
In 2012 many legislators practically begged for the opportunity to “fix” property taxes. Only to find in 2017 that legislators were scrambling to “get out of the property tax business”. Why? Because the so-called “buy downs” that the Legislature had been funding were declared “unsustainable”.
With the Legislature making the buy downs a thing of the past, property owners across the state will now see how local governments respond. All signs seem to be pointing to significant increases in property tax bills. An unwelcome event in a state that is currently suffering from the effects of slumping agricultural and oil prices.
We could spend all kinds of time quoting numbers past and present to illustrate the problematic increases many North Dakotans seem destined to face. But at the end of the day, those facts and figures really miss the fundamental problem with property taxes– so long as property taxes exist we never truly own our homes, we just rent them from the government.
When I came to realize this fundamental point many years ago, no other point mattered as much anymore. It is simply immoral to put someone’s home in jeopardy by taxing their property.
Now, of course, someone will inevitably say, “What about our schools, police departments, etc.?” To that I say, must we really pick on property owners to fund those things? The answer is unequivocally, “No!” There are other answers and means available to fund necessary services.
It is past time we do what Mayor Decker said he would like to do with property taxes. We need to “get rid of them all together”. It is the only acceptable solution to the immoral and unnecessary problem we call property taxes.