Campaign to eliminate North Dakota property tax moves forward

The North Dakota Legislature just handed taxpayers the biggest property and income tax cut in state history, more than half a billion dollars overall. But that could be only a down payment, if a campaign for a constitutional initiative to eliminate the property tax altogether gathers enough support to go before North Dakota voters next year.

A petition drive to obtain just over 31,000 signatures necessary to qualify for the proposed amendment to go on the ballot just took a significant step forward, according to the Bismarck Tribune.

Supporters of a proposed constitutional initiative to eliminate property taxes in North Dakota can begin circulating petitions to try to bring the matter to voters next year.

Secretary of State Michael Howe on Thursday announced that a required petition title had been approved. The title is a short statement to be included on the petition that sums up the proposed measure. The proposal in short is to “prohibit political subdivisions from levying any tax on real or personal property except for the payment of bonded indebtedness.”

The former state representative leading the charge, Rick Becker, told KFYR-TV there’s more than sufficient state revenue to offset the loss of property tax dollars.

“We are looking at putting a measure on the ballot in 2024 that will eliminate all property taxes. That’s number one; number two, it would require the legislature to replace what was generated in property tax revenue by all the cities and counties,” said Becker.

Replacing property tax revenue with existing state revenues would cost the state about a billion dollars per year.

“We have the money there, we just need to redirect it. The legislature has not been interested in doing that, and so the citizens of North Dakota are saying, ‘We want this done and you will make ends meet, according to what’s necessary,’” said Becker.

The campaign follows a successful petition drive in 2022 to amend the state constitution to impose term limits on state lawmakers and the governor. But there will almost certainly be pushback from several interest groups if supporters garner enough signatures to put the property tax measure on the ballot next year.

He [Becker] believes state revenues can replace perpetually rising local property taxes and take pressure off property owners. Critics including the North Dakota Association of Counties say eliminating property taxes would take power away from local political subdivisions and potentially lead to increases in sales and income taxes.

It’s tempting to think North Dakotans would be more likely than not to give themselves a permanent tax cut by voting to eliminate property taxes once and for all. But that’s not what happened the last time this issue came up..

North Dakotans in 2012 defeated a similar measure, with more than 76% of voters rejecting it. Becker argues times have changed, and that voters are dissatisfied with a lack of action by the Legislature to address the root causes of rising property taxes. Some officials including Gov. Doug Burgum believe such reform can only happen at the local level — county, school and park boards.

If enough state residents sign on to the petition, the opportunity for North Dakotans to zero out the property taxes for good will go on the ballot in June or November.