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Published September 12 2012

Forum editorial: Balanced approach to tax cuts

As expected, there is fallout from the landslide defeat of North Dakota Measure 2, the deeply flawed proposal to eliminate property taxes. The fallout, however, is not taking the radical form vocal proponents of the crushed measure might have liked – or even anticipated simply because a property-tax-elimination measure got on the ballot.

Several tax initiatives will be on the agenda when the Legislature convenes early next year. Property tax cuts already on the books seem to have the most support among lawmakers, specifically the school tax replacement that allows school districts to lower property tax rates with no cost to school budgets. That provision has been in law for several years, having been championed by then-Gov. John Hoeven. It has proved to be popular with taxpayers and local school officials. It has translated into real tax relief for property owners.

Moreover, that mechanism is probably one of the factors that contributed to the rejection of Measure 2.

A legislative committee this week reviewed proposed bills related to more tax relief. There were good ideas and at least one really bad idea, which got hammered by more enlightened committee members. Rep. Roscoe Streyle, R-Minot, came up with a scheme that aimed to eliminate all property tax exemptions, including the widely successful renaissance zone program. The committee easily and properly rejected Streyle’s bill. Rep. Jim Kasper, R-Fargo was among those reminding his colleagues of the success of renaissance zones in Fargo’s downtown and in other cities.

The legislative response thus far to failed Measure 2 appears to be responsible and insightful. There’s little doubt lawmakers will enact new tax cuts (income, sales?) and extend the school tax cut program that has worked so well. But if the pushers of Measure 2 expected the Legislature to be intimidated or bullied, they were mistaken.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.

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