If you’re a property owner who is looking for significant property tax reform, forget it. When it comes to the 2019 North Dakota Legislature, you’re not going to see any. Such was evident in the defeat of House Bill 1380 today— which wasn’t the first property tax bill to go down in defeat this session.
The bill proposed that, “Property taxes levied in dollars by a taxing district may not exceed the amount the taxing district levied in dollars in the preceding taxable year by more than three percent.” This 3% cap would have been a decrease from the existing 12%. There were a number of exceptions, but the primary one was that a levy exceeding 3% would have required a vote of the people in that taxing district.
The floor debate was lengthy, but I highly encourage you listen to it. A warning though— prepare for your blood pressure to go up. You’ll witness about everything that’s wrong with property tax as it’s protected by those who pretend to be sympathetic to property owners. Having said that, Representatives Ben Koppelman (R – District 16), Larry Bellew (R – District 38), Tom Kading (R – District 45), Rick Becker (R – District 7), and Kim Koppelman (R – District 13) were excellent in their defense of the bill. Rep. Kim Koppelman was especially impressive. If you decide to listen to just one speech, I’d recommend his.
As I mentioned before, this isn’t the first bill relating to property taxes to be defeated this session. Here’s just a few off the top of my head:
- House Bill 1221, which proposed to change tax foreclosures from two years to five. You should listen to Rep. Bernie Satrom’s floor speech in favor of this bill. He shares with his colleagues in the House that he knows someone at risk of losing their long-held family property due to health issues and that this bill could have prevented that from happening. Yet, the bill was defeated 19-70.
- House Bill 1390 was similar to the 3% cap, but would have been a freeze at their current levels. Any increases would have needed voter approval. This bill was defeated by a vote of 29-60.
- House Bill 1481 would have allowed property owners to hire appraisers and to substitute appraisals for true and full valuations determined by tax assessors. This bill was defeated 24-68.
It’s interesting to note that during the 2017 Legislative Session HB 1380 — then known as HB 1361 — passed the House, but was defeated in the Senate on a vote of 0-46. This time the House defeated it by a vote of 25-67. Indeed, the legislature has gotten worse on property taxes, not better.
You might recall that when a movement was in place to eliminate property taxes in 2012, through initiated measure, that the folks in Bismarck begged for another opportunity to “fix it”. They didn’t— just like we were told they wouldn’t by those running the campaign to abolish them. And now, instead of fixing them, the majority of the legislature has buckled down in an effort to leave them as they are.
In the meantime, property owners continue to suffer. If property taxes are ever truly going to be fixed, then they need to be abolished. And the North Dakota Legislature sure as heck isn’t going to do that.
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