Interim Tax committee looking at property tax, business tax incentives

Aug 9, 2017

Sen. Jessica Unruh (R-Beulah).
Credit ND Legislature

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

The chairman of the Legislature’s interim taxation Committee said her committee will be taking an extensive look at North Dakota’s property taxes.

"The last time we have any big, sweeping changes in the way that we assess property taxes was in 1981," said Sen. Jessica Unruh (R-Beulah). "That was a long time ago."

Unruh says the changes could be minor, or they could be substantial.

"We as a state have made a lot of investments in property taxes over the years," Unruh said. "We have some accountability here. So it's time for us to put that accountability back on the local leaders."

Unruh said the 2017 Legislature moved to take over the funding of federal and state social service mandates from the counties.

"That's a step in th right direction," Unruh said. "And it puts local decisions back in the hands of local decision makers. That's where they belong."

Unruh said everything about property taxes will be on the table, at least for discussion.

"We will focus less on the mills and the caps," Unruh said. "Well take a look at what other states do. For example, other states personal property. We don't. That might be something we want to take a look at."

North Dakota stopped taxing personal property in the 1960s.

The committee will also continue its study of tax incentives offered to new and expanding businesses. That study began in the 2015-2016 biennium. It resulted in some seldom-used incentives being taken off the books. It will be studied in this biennium, and the next.

Rep. Jason Dockter (R-Bismarck) chaired the interim taxation committee in that biennium. This time around, he's the vice-chairman. And Dockter said there's still a lot of work to do.

"We want to be very prudent and selective," Dockter said. "If they aren't being used, and there is no benefit to the state, they shouldn't be in state law."

But Dockter said if some incentives are showing they are working, the committee will also look at improvements to them.

"That is, as long as the state is getting something in return, and our economy is being stimulated," Dockter said.