N.D. House approves property tax relief

BISMARCK—The state House approved property tax relief for North Dakotans on Tuesday but not before debate of whether it should.

House Bill 1047 provides nearly $342 million to the superintendent of public instruction to allocate mill levy reduction grants to school districts for the 2011-13 biennium.

The bill also requires another nearly $342 million be set aside in the property tax relief sustainability fund.

The bill passed on an 86-8 vote. Rep. Dave Weiler, R-Bismarck, opposed the bill, saying the Legislature should not be involved in property taxes since it doesn’t collect the tax.

“I know that there’s a lot of people out there that really enjoy the property tax break that they are getting and, quite frankly, I’m one of them,” he said. “But I just think this is the wrong road to go down.”

Putting the money into foundation aid for schools may be a way for the Legislature to get out of being involved in property taxes, Weiler said. This would put the focus instead on schools, he said.

Weiler also expressed concerns about the sustainability of providing millions of dollars of property tax relief, saying people have come to expect it.

“That’s what we’ve done,” he said. “North Dakotans now think that the Legislature controls your property taxes.”

Rep. David Monson, R- Osnabrock, agreed.

“We are not in the property tax business,” he said. “I never thought we were. We never should have been.”

House Majority Leader Al Carlson of Fargo said it was hard to argue with some of the points since legislators don’t assess or collect property taxes.

However, he said the House needed to pass the bill and send it to the Senate. He told fellow House members that they will need to decide how to handle the property tax issue in the future.

The bill now moves to the Senate.

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