Raising Taxes on Businesses Is a Good Way to Hurt North Dakota


“The Pioneer Family” stands in front of the North Dakota State Capitol on July 14, 2016, in Bismarck. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

North Dakota is very much beholden to commodity prices. Our state is dominated by industries which produce products – be they crops or coal or oil – of variable value. Oil prices are, in particular, notoriously volatile as our lawmakers in Bismarck slashing budgets to make up for revenue shortfalls are well aware of.

This is why political leaders in our state have, for generations now, promoted the idea of economic diversification. The more variety we have in industry, business, and commerce the less likely our state’s economy is to be waylaid by the commodity price roller coaster.

That’s why keeping taxes in our state low is so important. Not only do we attract businesses to our state to diversify our economy but we have to do so while overcoming things like our extreme weather.

Which is why, at a time when our state economy has taken a major hit, a tax hike for businesses is a terrible idea. Though that’s exactly what Democrats tried to slip into a bill pertaining to the state taking over local social services

Sen. Jim Dotzenrod, D-Wyndmere, proposed a bill amendment to restore the 2015 corporate income tax apportionment formula, which Democrats argued in a news release would generate almost $24 million in the 2017-19 funding cycle. The amendment was proposed during discussion on the bill creating a pilot program for the state takeover of county social services costs, and it was rejected in a 4-2 vote along party lines.

Senator Dotzenrod derided the corporate income tax rates as “big, multi-state corporations,” but that’s just a partisan talking point. The truth this that just about every business these days is incorporated. While it may be true that some of the largest corporations operating in our state are the local branches of regional or even national enterprises, that’s really not relevant.

Those big companies provide goods and services in North Dakota. The employ North Dakotans in that endeavor.

That’s exactly the sort of thing we don’t want to tax out of the state.

Democrats have an opening to make up some ground against Republicans in this election cycle. It is absolutely true that Republicans spent too much money during the oil boom years, and now we’re paying the price.

The Republicans have nobody but themselves to blame for that.

But Democrats won’t be able to capitalize on that vulnerability if their message to voters is higher taxes.