It’s ironic, at least to this political observer, that we have another Measure 2 on the statewide ballot seeking to abolish a tax.
In June of 2012, a constitutional amendment on the ballot called Measure 2 was hugely controversial because it sought to abolish property taxes which collect hundreds of millions of dollars per year across the state. In November of 2014, voters will go to the ballot to vote on another Measure 2 which most of them probably won’t even have heard about.
This Measure 2 is mostly flying under the radar thanks to seven other measures on the ballot – some of them dealing with controversial issues like abortion and family law – taking all the oxygen out of the room.
Measure 2 adds this to a new section of Article X of the North Dakota Constitution: “The state and any county, township, city, or any other political subdivision of the state may not impose any mortgage taxes or any sales or transfer taxes on the mortgage or transfer of real property.”
The thing is, no such tax exists in this state. The proponents of Measure 2 – the realtors, for the most part – want to innoculate the state against such a tax.
“Real estate transfer taxes rarely come with an additional service provided to the property owner, but they do come in many shapes and sizes that include nominal fees or percentages based on sales price,” Rep. Scott Louser, a Republican from Minot and the sponsor of the legislation in the Legislature, wrote for SAB earlier this month. “In cases where other states have such a tax, often the legislature is faced with efforts to increase those taxes slightly, but often, over time. Minnesota and South Dakota both have a transfer tax in place however Montana is one of the above mentioned that has successfully banned this through a similar process. Property tax owners already pay hefty property tax bills in many parts of the state and having a transfer tax added simply increases that burden.”
Louser has also told me privately that the threat of such a tax doesn’t only come from the state level. Home rule charters, which some political subdivisions enjoy, allow for the implementation of a local sales tax which could include a tax on the sale or transfer of property.
In June of 2012 North Dakota voters made it clear, with the other Measure 2, that they want to keep the property tax. That measure failed with more than 76 percent of voters saying “no.”
So if we are to keep the property tax, let’s avoid layering on more tax burdens on top of it.
“Yes” seems a reasonable vote on this one.