Press editorial: Passing tax buck not the key
We at the newspaper would hazard to guess, if you asked most North Dakotans if they thought their taxes were too high almost all would agree. Break it down and ask if property, income, payroll, sales, city, county, state and even federal taxes are too high and again the answer would be that they are all too high. Depending on your perspective you might think one is unfairly high compared to another.
North Dakota elected officials always face the challenge of raising enough income to fund the state budget. The same thing goes with the county, city and even the feds. A lot of wrangling goes on to determine what is the proper balance between property, income and sales taxes? Most reasonable folks realize that there has to be some taxes to pay for necessary government services. How much, who is going to pay it, what constitutes necessary as well as what form of tax too often is where the political rodeo begins. Everyone has an opinion, but when it comes right down to it North Dakotans don't want to pay anymore taxes than they have too.
One of the many tax bills in this year's Legislature, North Dakota House Bill 1268, would institute a sales tax exemption for clothes. Clothing retailers on the eastern side of the state compete with Minnesota retailers who sell to North Dakota shoppers free of sales tax on clothes. We get that there are very thin profit margins for retailers especially in these trying times and competing with retailers who don't charge sales tax across an imaginary line is unfair.
OK, so if we eliminate the tax on clothing the million dollar question is, or $800,000 in Dickinson's case, how do they make up the loss of that tax revenue? Raise property or income taxes, reduce services? Transferring a revenue shortfall from the state to local municipalities doesn't make sense. Too many times legislators have patted themselves on the back for reducing state taxes, when in fact they just passed the buck and tax burden from the state to local government.
We at the paper favor eliminating sales tax on clothing, but only if the state has a concrete visible plan to replace those taxes to local cities.
Dickinson Press Editorial Board members meet weekly to discuss issues that are important to the community.