Revolution: North Dakota Considers Ditching Property Tax

Sign of the Times?

On Tuesday in North Dakota, the voters will get a chance to decide whether to dump the system of property taxes.  Predictably, all the usual suspects are aligning to oppose it, but some may be a bit surprised at some who are opposing the measure.  The public employees’ union naturally opposes the measure, but what might surprise you is that the Chamber of Commerce and the Republican governor oppose it as well.  The state has been the beneficiary of vast new oil production, so unlike many of the other states around the country, where budgets are in trouble, North Dakota has a bit of a surplus.  What shouldn’t surprise readers is the complete lack of imagination on the part of the establishment that cannot imagine doing without residents’ cash extracted under threat on the basis of the value of their property.  Said the governor, Jack Dalrymple, according to NYTimes:

“It’s mind-boggling, really,” he said, in an interview, of the effects of such a ban. “We’d be changing everything, frankly.”

Change everything?

Absolutely!  This would likely upset a large number of apple carts, but honestly, I don’t see anything wrong with that.  I believe one’s property should be at least as inviolate as one’s right to keep and bear arms, or one’s right to free exercise of religion, or one’s right to free speech.  If the voters of the state compel government to reorganize and ditch the property tax, it means the people of North Dakota will be more free.  According to USA Today, some people can’t imagine ditching the tax:

“The property tax is the foundation of local government services,” said Connie Sprynczynatyk, executive director of the North Dakota League of Cities. “It’s the predictable source of revenue to pay for police and fire and other local services in the community where you live.”

Yes, predictably, the big-government types can’t imagine losing a nickel’s worth of revenue.  Perhaps worse, the allegedly conservative Chamber of Commerce crowd simply can’t fathom it.  Again from the NY Times piece:

“This is a plan without a plan,” said Andy Peterson, president and chairman of the North Dakota Chamber of Commerce, who acknowledged that property taxes have climbed in some parts of the state and that North Dakota’s political leaders need to tackle the issue. “But this solution is a little like giving a barber a razor-sharp butcher knife — and by the way, this barber is blind — and asking him or her to give you a haircut. You’ll get the job done, but you might be missing an ear or an eye.”

This is the stock complaint of opponents to the measure.  Opponents argue that the measure would simply take away property taxes, but not replace it with anything.  Rational people ought to ask: So what? There is a solution, and it is to cut spending.  Cut spending until the expected expenditures are reduced to the absolute minimum necessary to function, and then figure out how to fund it.  Part of the problem with the “predictability” of the the revenue stream from property taxes is that government simply grows and grows, but never diminishes.

The other problem is that opponents of this measure are doing what government types always do when they see their revenue stream threatened:  They wave police, fire and emergency services around as the first thing to be cut.  Voters in North Dakota, or anywhere else ought to ask what portion of the government’s expenditures actually go to those purposes.  This tactic is the usual approach to argumentation on the subject, but what it is intended to conceal is all of the things not related to emergency services on which the governments at both the local and state level spend tax-payer money.

It was once that people spoke of emergency services, but over time, the word emergency has been replaced by the word “essential,” and therein lies the heart of the bait and switch.  When most people think of “essential services,” they’re thinking about police, fire, EMS, and 9-1-1 service, but when a government bureaucrat speaks of what is “essential,” one should pin down that official for his or her definition of the term, otherwise, it might include all manner of things in which the government has no essential role.

The other part disguised in all of this is the education establishment’s role.  Much of the money that goes to pay for local schools is derived from property tax revenue.  If the property tax is abolished, it will send state lawmakers scrambling, and it will send local school officials looking for other ways to fund schools.  Once again, it’s about throwing a monkey-wrench into the mechanisms of big government, because government wants and demands a “predictable revenue stream.” The problem is, it’s not government’s to demand.

The people of North Dakota have a monumental decision to make on Tuesday, and I hope they strike out in the name of liberty, and in the name of property rights.  This country could not exist had we not established firm property rights, and since the advent of property taxes on a grand scale in the late 19th century, governments at all levels have grown to consume everything.

I think one of the people pushing this effort in the state summarizes it best, from the NY Times article:

“The same problem kept coming up,” said Charlene Nelson, a homemaker who became a leader of the effort to amend the Constitution, pointing to what she deems the underlying problem with the property tax. “It means all of us are renters — none of us are homeowners.”

Right!  It’s time to fire the phony ‘landlords.’

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  • Pendejogrande7883

    North Dakota teacher salaries are second lowest in the nation, only ahead of South Dakota. I’m not sure that heavy spending on education is quite as big a contributor towards an unfair tax burden in ND as it is in Cali, NY or NJ. But even at that….I agree that you ought to completely gut your system of financing services in the state and let them die on the vine. You can always pick back up where you left off if the need arises. Putting a school district or a police force back on line is a piece of cake. Especially with a huge influx of oilfield hands into the state. Notoriously civil folks those roustabouts and drilling hands are.  

  • Kara

    I am flabbergasted that this was rejected by the voters in ND.  WHY on earth would you vote to KEEP property taxes?  We’re taxed too much as it is.  Why do they prefer to keep paying RENT to the government?  I just do not understand this vote at all.  For once shouldn’t the government have to cut their spending in response to a change in “revenue” like the rest of us SERFS have to?  I guess that was just WAY too much to ask in ND.  Very disappointing. 

  • Pingback: North Dakota Votes for Measure to Dump Property Taxes « News Worldwide

  • Jeff1000

    Property taxes have always been one of my sources of absolute contempt and derision. The way in which local government officials come around and assess my property like it’s their property, and for all practical purposes it really is. You don’t lose possession of property that’s been bought and paid for if it’s truly your property. Like the mob, the government puts a gun to your head and demands that you grease their palms or suffer the consequences. And yes, there actually is no such thing as a homeowner: we’re all just tenants in our own property. 

  • the unit

    I agree with a lot said in article.  I do believe I own my little plot of land.  But like woman says…just renting at government consent.  And really I guess years and years ago some seminole or choctaw family resided up here away from the flood plain of the Gulf of Mexico on the Florida coast. About 60 feet above sea level. 

    There was no title change then.  May not be next time.  Life is funny that way.

    Anyhow…it was not voted in…they want their roads paved to Walmart.

  • the unit

    Lots has happened…not just Obamagate…life for all of us.  Will keep on happening. Will keep on looking here for common sense commentary and comments.

  • http://twitter.com/camarocowboy Camaro Cowboy

    10 days and counting since you posted Mark! I know your very busy with the farm, but there’s gotta be a way to hear from you sooner. WE NEED YOUR POSTS to combat the Romneybots. If you are on vacation, post from your smart phone or tablet or whatever. Just, take 5 minutes out of your week to say something. Miss ya brother! Come on back!

  • the unit

     ”One if by land, and two if by sea”  …now three…if by drone. Hello George O, not W.  Old North Church becomes New World Caliphate Mosque.

    • http://www.markamerica.com/ Mark America

      Ain’t it the truth?

      • the unit

        Yeah it is.  Unfortunately for the O man…my birthday officially entering me into the elder registry of Unitarianism was about a week ago before this plea from Obama/Obiden…would pledge future food stamps!!!

        http://www.barackobama.com/news/entry/the-obama-event-registry

        • the unit

          Pledge future food stamps?  Not really. Being “a unit” may need them one day so I have strength to present case before “death panel” as to usefulness, and not just “useless eater.”  Not on them now, doubt a “useless eater” without voter pledge will get them anyway.