Panel hears tax, school, oil measures
BISMARCK -- A House committee worked into the evening Thursday taking testimony on five proposed constitutional amendments, including abolition of property taxes, creation of a semi-untouchable oil tax fund, and requiring the state school superin...
BISMARCK -- A House committee worked into the evening Thursday taking testimony on five proposed constitutional amendments, including abolition of property taxes, creation of a semi-untouchable oil tax fund, and requiring the state school superintendent be a teacher.
Testimony was in the House Constitutional Revision Committee, which took no action on the measures and meets again Monday to hear even more proposed constitutional amendments.
Rep. Dan Ruby, R-Minot, who backs property tax abolition, said the state has more than enough income from sales taxes, and personal and corporate income tax to send local governments the same amount of money they now collect in property taxes to pay for schools, cities, parks and county services. It is House Concurrent Resolution 3046.
"It's something I think the state could afford," Ruby said.
Bob Hale, a Minot man active in anti-tax measures, asked the committee to keep in mind that supporters are not asking them to decide if it is a good or bad idea, only to put it on the ballot for voters to debate and decide.
He said North Dakota would become the only state with no property tax.
The superintendent measure, House Concurrent Resolution 3047, is one Democrats have been seeking since the Republican-controlled Legislature repealed the license requirement law in 2007. Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem had said the law, which had been in place since 1911, would be found unconstitutional because it created a requirement above and beyond the constitution's qualifications for holding state office.
As he had promised weeks ago, Rep. Duane DeKrey, R-Pettibone, came to Thursday's hearing with proposed additions to the superintendent bill. It would require not just that the superintendent be a licensed teacher, but that all other statewide elected officials be given similar minimum requirements for election. The insurance commissioner would have to be a college graduate with an insurance agent's license and at least five years' experience in the business. The secretary of state would need a master's degree in political science and have seven years' experience in government, politics or a related field.
DeKrey sponsored the 2007 repeal of the superintendent licensure law.
The oil measure is House Concurrent Resolution 3054. Backers have the same goal as the failed Measure 1 on last November's ballot. The idea is to lock up some of the state's oil tax windfall so it is off limits to routine spending and an endowment fund that can be used to provide state government income indefinitely. There is already a permanent oil tax trust fund but it can be and is raided every session to pay for state projects, tax relief, research centers and other budget items.
There are two additional measures similar to HCR 3054 this session with the same effect--get on the ballot for possible voter approval in 2010. Sen. Connie Triplett, D-Grand Forks, is the only lawmaker on all three measures. She also backed the failed Measure 1.
She doesn't have a favorite among the three now being considered, but said that something like it must be done.
"We cannot let ourselves become dependent on oil revenue," she said.
Triplett was among several lawmakers and other supporters who spoke at the hearing. No one testified against it.