2017 Legislature likely to debate state taking over all social service costs

Oct 18, 2016

Rep. Jason Dockter (R-Bismarck)
Credit Courtesy ND Legislature

The 2017 Legislature will likely tackle the issue of whether the state should fully fund social service programs.

Right now, counties can levy up to 20 mills of property tax to pay for some of those services. The interim Political Subdivisions Taxation Committee studied the bill. But the committee chairman – Rep. Jason Dockter (R-Bismarck) – said the bill needs some work, and his committee ran out of time.

"We're all in agreement that this is a good concept, and should go forward," Dockter said. "But we didn't want to pass anything with all these additional amendments and other tweaking we had to do to the bill."

Dockter said the plan is to have an individual legislator take it to the 2017 session.

"We don't know who the sponsors will be," Dockter said. "But someone from the committee will take the lead."

Dockter said the bill is true property tax relief. And he said because the state funded 12 percent property tax relief package is probably not sustainable, this will be a good replacement for that.

"Last session, we set aside $300 million for the 12 percent program," Dockter said. "Our figures show taking over social services will cost $260 million. So we're looking at a $40 million savings."

Dockter said for counties that did not levy the maximum 20 mills for social services, a formula would be established so that they would get the same property tax relief as the others.