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Trevor Dahl, Grand Forks, Published February 16 2013

Letter: Get to know the real purpose of different taxes

Recently, Rep. Al Carlson, R-Fargo, has taken heat on the local airwaves for suggesting that if North Dakota receives more than enough revenue from the oil production tax, the state should look at lowering the tax. Carlson is using sound logic, and it’s his opponents who are in the wrong.

Taxes exist to fund services provided to the public by the government – no more and no less. Taxes do not exist to extract maximum revenue from private individuals in order to fund greater increases in public expenditures. We can deduce that we already collect more in revenues from the production tax than needed for repairs and improvements to infrastructure because the public debate is centered around how best to spend the budget surplus in other areas unaffected by the oil industry. We’re trying to figure out how to spend the bounty.

I applaud Carlson for realizing that oil production in North Dakota does not exist in a vacuum, immune from the rigors of competition in other states. It’s true that operators in the Bakken drill oil-producing wells 99 percent of the time. It’s a tremendous advantage that gives North Dakota leverage, for now. But given the extreme weather, relative scarcity of housing and infrastructure, and shortage of labor, our state is one technological breakthrough away from being at a disadvantage to other states with more favorable conditions for oil production and lower production taxes. All things being equal, North Dakota is not an ideal location for oil production.

North Dakota has more than enough tax revenue to meet all of its infrastructure needs. It’s time to be proactive and make our tax structure competitive with other (future) competitors.