This month we saw the final meeting of the Interim Taxation Committee of our state legislature. They are expertly led by Senator Dale Patten of Williston, a former banker and county commissioner.
At issue are breaks or reformulations of our state income tax and property tax, but probably not both. The Governor has joined a proposal for a 1.5% flat income tax, whereas he dislikes the proposals put forth so far for reducing property taxes. His reasoning is that, because property tax is a local tax, local governments (counties, school districts, etc.) would need to reduce their spending. He also says that so far, legislative fixes for property taxes are not a true tax cut because in these prior (and proposed) plans, the state picked up more of the cost of local government services such as human services and education. These are merely a shift in who picks up the tab, not a true reduction of taxes.
Chair Patten summed up the work of the interim committee by saying that while the committee has learned a lot about income and property tax, the discussion of which tax will see a reduction in the coming legislative session has not at all been decided. He noted that it will be a hot topic and has no idea which will prevail. He also stated that in his twenty years as a county commissioner, he heard people complain about property taxes but never once had anyone asked for fewer services. From my decades of public service, I would agree.
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