North Dakota Senate Report
This is the final week of the 63rd Legislative Session before cross over. All the bills that were introduced this session will have had their first hearing and their vote on the floor in the chamber of origin and those that passed will now go to the other chamber and the cycle will begin again.
There are some bills in the two Houses that are similar in nature or may address an issue in two different ways. There are also bills that affect the budgets that may have differing dollar amounts in them, but by the end of the session they will all have to be reconciled so that we are spending the same amount of money collectively and our policy wording is the same.
This is also the time where bills or parts of bills that were defeated in the chamber of origin may reappear in the form of an amendment on another bill of similar nature.
Property taxes have been on the forefront of our discussions this last week. There are bills in both chambers that attempt to do something about property tax relief. Most hope that property tax relief means a lowering of their taxes. As a landowner myself I would like to see that be the reality, but it is highly unlikely that anyone will see a significant lowering on their tax statements. First of all the state does not assess a property tax other than 1 mill that is dedicated to the UND Medical School. All other taxes are assessed by local sub divisions. Schools and county governments account for the lion’s share of property taxes. The state can impose controls or caps on how much a local subdivision may assess, but then we have to be prepared to cover their shortfalls if they can’t operate with the levying authority given them. The more we control the local taxing authorities the more we move toward a centralized government with the loss of local control.
This past week in the Senate we passed a bill that continues the 75-mill buy-down that we instituted last session. That means the state will be distributing $520 Million dollars to schools that they would otherwise have to get from their patrons (you and I). So in reality our taxes are being reduced 75 mills. What would they be if the state would not be able to do that? The House has a bill which incorporates the Governor’s proposal to buy down the school mills farther so that each district would only be able to assess 60 mills. That’s a long way from the 185 mills they were at two years ago. That bill will be voted on in the House this week. By the end of the session one of the bills I just mentioned will be passed or some hybrid of the two.
Other property tax related bills that were passed in the Senate include an expansion of the homestead tax credit for senior citizens. It raises the asset level that they need to qualify so that more seniors of low income will be eligible. Further we also passed a Homestead Tax Credit for residents that disregards the first $25 thousand of true and full value of their home. In this case if you are living in a taxing district that assesses 400 mills, your tax savings would be about $450.
Road funding is also a form of tax relief. We have already fast-tracked $720 million to go out before the session ends, and in that bill each township will get $10,000 sometime in April as well as more dollars coming when the final budget is done. The final DOT budget will have $2.2 billion in it with more money going to local subdivisions than we have ever done.
The Senate also has a bill before it this week that requests a legislative management study to examine the feasibility and desirability of eliminating property taxes. I hope that study moves forward, as it is a discussion worth having.
Next week I plan to continue the report on taxes and will share some of the tax discussion on Ag land, oil taxes and income taxes.