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By Brian Willhide, Forum Communications Co., Published May 15 2012

DC-based policy center: Measure 2 ‘very risky’

JAMESTOWN, N.D. – An official from The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities called Measure 2 “a very risky and highly imprudent experiment” on Tuesday.

Measure 2, which would amend the North Dakota Constitution to abolish property taxes if a majority votes in its favor, will be voted on by North Dakota residents on the June 12 primary ballot.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization and policy institute based out of Washington, D.C., has previously conducted research on a number of government policies and programs at the state and federal levels across the country.

“Measure 2 would lock North Dakota into a course of action that is uncharted and risky,” said Michael Leachman, co-author of the center’s new report “North Dakota’s Measure 2: High Risk for Little Reward” and the center’s director of state fiscal research.

The report and the center’s research are funded primarily by foundation grants and the center elected to study Measure 2 because of its potential impact.

“This proposal simply drew the attention of our organization,” said Nick Johnson, the center’s vice president of state

fiscal research.

Leachman, who presented the center’s findings during a conference call Tuesday, listed several dangers posed by Measure 2.

“You can’t just get rid of property taxes without a major disruption to local services,” he said. “Locking a ban on property taxes into the state constitution would make it especially difficult for the state to sustain funding for local services in the face of changing economic conditions.”

However, the idea that this would be “locked in” is inaccurate, according to Keith Colville, Jamestown/

Valley City region chairman of Empower the Taxpayer, who was contacted for comment after the conference call.

Empower the Taxpayer is a nonprofit coalition in favor of passing Measure 2.

Permanently shifting funding for schools from property taxes to oil revenues would leave the education system subject to a volatile industry, Leachman said. He pointed out several statistics that showed since 1994 projected oil revenues have been off by as much as 60 percent at times.

“Oil revenues can fluctuate greatly depending on factors beyond North Dakota’s control.”

Colville refuted Leachman’s argument, stating that Measure 2 was written well before the oil boom hit North Dakota.


Brian Willhide writes for the Jamestown Sun