More than three quarters of North Dakota voters rejected an initiative to abolish the state's $800 million property tax Tuesday, according to unofficial numbers from the North Dakota Secretary of State.
The Peace Garden State maintains the lowest unemployment rate in the United States and has become the nation’s second largest oil producer.
This has led to higher revenues and surpluses in government coffers of more than $1 billion.
Due to this oil boom, the state government put a proposal, known as Measure 2, to a vote. If the majority supported the initiative then property taxes would be eradicated, which would make North Dakota the first state to abolish such a tax.
Following Tuesday’s crucial vote, unofficial numbers from the North Dakota Secretary of State suggested that 76 percent of voters said “no” to the end of property taxes, a tax based on value of property and a sound revenue stream for state government.
Roughly 27,000 people signed petitions to put the amendment on the ballot. More than 175,000 ballots were cast in the end.
There was a lot of discourse and differing opinions on the issue. One group argued that it is unknown as to how long the oil boom would last. Others say property taxes hurt the poor and those who live on fixed incomes and are burdensome to homeowners in general.
“Property taxes mean property owners in effect are forever renters from the government. So I’d love to see property taxes abolished,” said John Nothdurft, director of government relations at The Heartland Institute, in a press release issued prior to the vote. “On the other hand, income taxes mean we in effect are slaves to government which confiscates our earnings, and income tax or some other tax likely would be raised to replace the lost property tax revenue.”
According to government figures, property taxes bring in an estimated $800 million, which accounts for approximately a quarter of North Dakota’s state and local tax revenue. Local governments who were opposed to measure say they were worried that the end of property taxes could hurt schools and infrastructure endeavors.
Moody’s issued a press release last week warning of the financial pressures both the state and local governments would face if property taxes were indeed abolished.
Steven Stanek, a research fellow, budget and tax policy at The Heartland Institute, agreed of the consistent tax revenue property taxes bring. However, Stanek had one message for governments: “don’t spend so much.”
Despite the proposal’s loss, the Associated Press reported that state officials have concurred to tackle frustrating property tax issues, such as unfair property tax exemptions and soaring annual tax bills.