The Real Results of Proposed Property Tax Reforms?

The many questions I have asked about the elimination of real estate taxes have not been answered. There are more which were not included in a prior article. Minot has a high percentage of sales tax revenue for obvious reasons. Thanks to the grace of God and industrious citizens, Minot is the regional center for law, medical care, shopping, banking, vehicle sales, farm equipment sales, higher education, and recreation. Compare that to the Minot trade area.

Retail sales in rural North Dakota are on the decline and have been for some time. Compare rural sales tax revenues to those of Minot. With predictable expense increases, which no one loves but are difficult to deny, how are local authorities going to like begging to Bismarck? The legislature meets every two years and sets budgets two and a half years in advance. In the interim, the Budget Section makes its decisions. If you can name or know anything about that small oligarchy, you are probably either in the legislature or a brilliant nerd.

The legislature needs a cushion. A lot can happen in two and a half years. North Dakota has two “Sugar Daddies”, the energy industry and the federal government. As I have written before, the energy industry has historically been volatile. Energy is also a depletable resource. I find it fascinating that a conservative state such as North Dakota continues to drink heartily of the mother’s milk of the federal government while claiming to be against deficit spending.

I hope our governor and local leaders speak up, rather than hiding out in the equivalent of the witness protection program. Reform can be done without throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Eliminating real estate property taxes favors the well off. Feel free to call me a traitor to my class. A tax break for some of us will merely stimulate the economy of Arizona. Finding North Dakotans on the golf courses of Arizona is about as difficult as finding Scandinavians at the Hostfest.

In conclusion, in the words of the skeptical journalist of old, H. L. Mencken, the “people know what they want and deserve to get it, good and hard.” Preferably that is a joke, not a fact, in 2024.

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Jim Maxson

Mr. Maxson is a retired Minot attorney, former ND State Senator representing Minot's 3rd District from 1986-1994, and former ND Democratic National Committeeman from 2000-2008. He speaks two languages, English and Metaphor, and is cursed by a long memory.

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