- Former state Representative and skilled self-promoter Rick Becker was approved to circulate petitions for an initiated measure proposing to eliminate property taxes in our state.
- If North Dakotans vote to pass this, every county, city, school, park, ambulance and fire district will need to go groveling to the Legislature to beg for money for local needs.
- Please do not sign the petition. The most effective way to stop this problem is by preventing it from being placed on the ballot. Educate your friends and family about how devastating this would be for our communities and ask them to not sign the petition.
Recently, former state Representative and skilled self-promoter Rick Becker was approved to circulate petitions for an initiated measure in 2024, proposing to eliminate property taxes in our state.
Becker and his band of merry salesmen will tell you over the next several months that we can have the same great public schools and quality public services without paying a dime in property taxes. What an incredible deal!
As we all know, that’s not the way the real world works. Nothing good comes for free, we often tell our children. We can’t have public schools and public services (i.e. fire and emergency response, law enforcement, water and waste processing, paved roads, parks and playgrounds, etc.), let alone good ones, without paying for them.
To that, Becker will say, “OH, BUT YOU CAN! Take some Legacy Fund money from here, mix it with some empty promises from over there, add a couple dashes of dreams, and poof, it’ll be fine! Trust us!”
With a little logic, a basic understanding of local control and the role of governments, and just a brief glance back at our state’s financial history, we’ll see that this is a risk we can’t afford to take. We know that our state’s budget is overly reliant on commodity prices –namely, energy and agriculture. We also know from the recent past that commodity prices are unstable, and that budget writers and appropriators have zero control over a global market that determines those commodity prices. The Legacy Fund, as flush with cash as it is today, is not going to be able to replace the long-term funding source that local property taxes provide for local needs.
Let’s consider the consequences if enough North Dakotans fall for this pitch, sign the petitions, see it on the 2024 ballot, and vote to pass it. In that (dreadful) scenario, every county, city, school, park, ambulance and fire district will need to go groveling to the Legislature to beg for money for local needs. Keep in mind, they’d only be given the opportunity to do so every two years, regardless of the immediacy of the need. So, let’s say Rolla needs a boiler for their school, or has a road taken out by a terrible storm, or experiences an unanticipated water main break. Those (most likely volunteer) Rolla leaders will just need to tell their community to sit tight and wait (no biggie) until they can go to Bismarck and ask legislators for money to fix it.
Now, imagine that Fargo needs those same exact things. Rolla has three legislators, and Fargo has 27. Who is better positioned to get that funding? Meanwhile, Bismarck also needs a new fire station, three new police officers and six more teachers, just in one of their school buildings. Oh, and so does Bowman. And Park River. And Kenmare. Do you really want the Legislature serving as the county commission, school board, city commission, park board and township board of every jurisdiction in the state?
Just over a decade ago, a similar group brought forward this same idea. In June of 2012, that measure was defeated handily at the ballot box by a 23%-77% vote. Becker also floated the recycled scheme around 2019-20 but sat that year out because we experienced a global pandemic that threw our personal lives and nearly every budget – public or private, household or national level – into utter chaos. (One would think a lesson to be learned there was that maybe a stable, reliable funding source is crucial to maintaining basic services during times of crises, but that clearly wasn’t the takeaway from Becker.)
I was the campaign manager back in 2012 for a coalition of organizations and stakeholders that successfully stood together and fended off this measure. The coalition that came together was described at the time as the most impressive, most diverse coalition in state history. Organized by the Greater ND Chamber, ND AARP, NDEA, NDPEA, ND Realtors, ND Oil and Coal, ND Rural Electrics and local unions, chambers, co-ops, and groups partnered together and coalesced around one goal – defeating a bad idea. No one in that coalition cared about party affiliation, whether they had previously been on opposing sides of unrelated, past fights. Instead, we focused on what was best for our communities, our kids and our futures.
In order to prevent this terrible idea from taking root, we are asking for your help. If asked, please do not sign the petition! The simplest, cheapest and most effective way to stop this problem is by preventing it from being placed on the ballot for a vote. Educate your friends and family about how devastating this would be for our communities and ask them to not sign the petition, either!
In the coming months, you’ll be hearing a lot more about this issue. At this point, we don’t know if they will collect enough valid signatures, if it will be approved for the ballot, and if so, whether it will appear on the June primary or November general election ballot. What we do know is that we are ready to stand up for our communities, our families, and our kids, and that we need you to join us!