Property tax relief, early childhood funding

BISMARCK–Both chambers have now approved nearly $342 million in property tax relief for the next two years.

The Senate unanimously voted on the tax relief on Wednesday, including setting aside another nearly $342 million for relief during 2013-15.

“This has been a very popular property tax relief piece of legislation for the citizens of North Dakota,” said Sen. Dwight Cook, R-Mandan. “It’s something I think we can all be proud of.” 

For a $150,000 home, the property tax relief will result in a savings of about $506 per year, said Pam Sharp, director of the state Office of Management and Budget.

Early education funding

Also Wednesday, the Senate Appropriations Committee cut the $830,000 from the Extension Service budget slated to expand the Gearing Up for Kindergarten program.

This is a school readiness and parent education program.

Sen. Bill Bowman, R-Bowman, said updating and modernizing research facilities took priority in the budget.

Sen. Ray Holmberg, R-Grand Forks, said it was a Sophie’s choice to decide whether to provide funding for Gearing Up for Kindergarten or Head Start. The committee opted for Head Start since it reached needy children, he said.

The committee approved House Bill 1373 to provide $1 million in grants to federally-designated Head Start programs in the state. This would be the first time North Dakota provided state funding to the program. The original bill asked for $6 million.

Sen. Randy Christmann, R-Hazen, opposed the bill, saying the amount will increase in the future.

“Once we start funding it, the federal government I’m guessing is going to quit borrowing money from China to do it and let us do it,” he said.

Both bills still need to go to the Senate floor for votes.