Democrats on the offensive, accuse Republican senators of misleading voters on oil tax
FARGO - North Dakota Democrats went on the offensive Friday, accusing the state's Republican lawmakers of misleading voters about an attempt to reduce the oil-extraction tax during last year's legislative session. "Every member of the Senate GOP ...
FARGO – North Dakota Democrats went on the offensive Friday, accusing the state’s Republican lawmakers of misleading voters about an attempt to reduce the oil-extraction tax during last year’s legislative session.
“Every member of the Senate GOP majority voted in favor of Senate Bill 2336, a bill which would have slashed the oil-extraction tax by 30 percent,” said Senate Minority Leader Mac Schneider, a Grand Forks Democrat. “The North Dakota Tax Department estimated that would have cost the state $1.3 billion in the first five years alone.”
Speaking at a news conference in downtown Fargo, Schneider specifically called out Sens. Margaret Sitte, Lonnie Laffen and Larry Luick, saying their statements and campaign materials are “displaying a stunning disregard for the truth” about the bill, which was ultimately defeated.
Laffen, R-Grand Forks, dismissed the Democrats’ accusations as political theater that takes one part of the bill out of context.
“The net-effect of that bill was a $39.4 million increase,” he said. “To say it’s a decrease is just flat-out lying.”
Senate Bill 2336 would have eliminated 10 tax loopholes for oil companies while also reducing the 6.5 percent extraction tax, which companies pay on oil taken out of the ground, to 4.5 percent for new wells built after 2017. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 34-13, and House lawmakers later rejected it with an 87-6 vote.
Sitte, R-Bismarck, said legislators vote on many different measures and that the focus should be on their end results. In this case, she said, the outcome was the passage of House Bill 1198, which increased oil taxes by $220 million.
“All that matters is the final vote on the final bill,” she said.
However, Schneider wasn’t buying Sitte’s logic.
“When you get caught with your hand in the cookie jar, you don’t get credit for pulling it out,” he said. “We know that if the GOP supermajority gets their way next session, they’ll take another run at cutting the extraction tax.”
House Majority Leader Al Carlson, R-Fargo, says that’s not true. “There are absolutely no intentions to look at that tax at all,” he said.
Phone messages left for Luick, who represents District 25 south of Fargo, were not returned Friday.