Legislature set to pass a bill for the state to take over funding of county social services

Apr 21, 2017

Sen. Brad Bekkedahl (R-Williston)

Rep. Jason Dockter (R-Bismarck).

A House-Senate conference committee has reached an agreement over a proposal to have the state take over funding social service programs that had been paid through county property taxes.

This replaces the 12 percent buydown the state had set aside for property tax relief.

Right now, counties can levy up to 20 mills to pay for those programs.

The compromise removed the inflators and “hold harmless” clauses. It comes with a $160 million price tag. The conference committee chairman – Sen. Brad Bekkedahl (R-Williston) – said it amounts to about 7.6 percent of property tax relief.

"It's not the amount of property tax relief we thought could be with this bill," Bekkedahl told reporters. "But there is still significant property tax relief out there."

Bekkedahl said if you account for the property tax relief in education, the state is offering a 35 percent reduction in local property taxes.

Another conference committee member – Rep. Jason Dockter (R-Bismarck) – said even though this won’t equal the 12 percent buydown --  this bill is permanent property tax relief – and reform.

"I relate it to a business," Dockter said. "We had profits, and we gave some back to the citizens. Our revenue is down, and we don't have the money to give back to the citizens. This alternative will make sure that into the future, we have reform and permanent property tax relief."

Dockter said he thinks people will realize lawmakers did what they could with the budget they had.