Weighing In for the Battle for Local Control

In 2024, North Dakota voters will probably vote whether or not to eliminate real estate property taxes. It looks like it will be a proxy war between the obvious factions within the North Dakota Republican party. Republicans in recent history have comprised roughly 75% of North Dakota voters.

Is the Republican party still the party of local control? Local school boards, city councils, park boards, water boards, and county commissions are obviously local. Have they all become infested with vermin? Their primary source of revenue is real estate property taxes.

If real estate property taxes are eliminated, local government expenses will not be eliminated. Inflation will not magically disappear. Predictably, there will be necessary increases in building maintenance, fuel expenses, equipment maintenance, heating and air conditioning expenses, water treatment, land fill replacement, road and bridge maintenance, and labor.

Where will the funds be for periodic pay increases for essential local workers such as teachers, custodians, secretaries, garbage collectors, street maintainers, snow removers, and fire fighters?

How much North Dakota commercial real estate is owned by out of state organizations? How much North Dakota farmland is owned by non-residents? How many mobile home parks are owned by non-residents? How many apartment buildings are owned by non-residents? How many landlords will have a religious experience and pass their tax decreases on to their tenants?

Would real estate tax elimination be a tax break or merely a tax shift? What other forms of taxes or fees are more acceptable to pay for predictable essential local cost increases? If real estate property taxes are too high, are our Republican legislature and Republican governor incapable of finding a reasonable solution?

Hopefully our Republican brothers and sisters will have an intelligent debate regarding these questions rather than calling each other names. The average citizen just wants a functional government. Is that too much to ask?

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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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