Not a Single Member of the North Dakota Senate Voted to Cap Property Taxes Yesterday

Last week the state House passed HB1361 by a wide margin, 58-32.

The aim of the bill was to protect taxpayers from property tax hikes. The Legislature, which has in the past worked to push down property taxes by buying up local spending, can no longer afford the buy downs. While the state is taking over social service spending, and eliminating the ability of counties to levy those taxes, that’s not enough to offset the elimination of the property tax buy downs.

Which sets the stage for property tax hikes. A hedge against that was HB1361 which would require that any increase in property taxes above 3 percent per year be approved by the voters.

But yesterday the Senate rejected the bill on 46-0 vote, clearing the way for us to go back to the bad old days when local governments jacked up property taxes and blamed the Legislature for it.

The locals like to talk about “local control” but taking local responsibility for spending which drives property taxes higher is a concept which largely escapes them.

Not that the Legislature doesn’t deserve some blame. The decision to try to buy down property taxes was always a bad idea. It was politically expedient back when the state had big budget surpluses in which to hide the buy downs, but now the surpluses are gone and – surprise! – the property tax problem┬ádidn’t go away.

HB1361 would have created the right political dynamic around property taxes.  Local governments wanting to increase spending would have to make their case for it directly to the voters. That way voters know what, and who, is increasing their burdens.

This would replace the dynamic whereby voters get their property tax statements and then blame the Legislature for the increasing bill.

But apparently the Senate wasn’t on board with that.

Shame on them.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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