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N.D. Legislators hear more property tax relief bills

BISMARCK North Dakota legislators say they get blamed for local property taxes going up, when they are not at fault for the locally assessed taxes.

BISMARCK North Dakota legislators say they get blamed for local property taxes going up, when they are not at fault for the locally assessed taxes.

Two lawmakers presented different ideas Tuesday for alleviating the increase in property taxes, with their bills now joining a half dozen or more similar proposals that remain in the mix in this session.

Rep. Kim Koppelman, R-West Fargo, told the House Finance and Tax Committee that his House Bill 1276 attacks local political subdivisions' "stealth tax increases" that plague homeowners whose property values go up.

The bill raised objections from cities and counties because it would limit local political subdivisions to raising any property's dollar amount of taxes to no more than 2 percent per year, with exceptions for property improvements.

He told the story of one of his constituents who said that years ago, his goal in life had been to own his own home free and clear. While the constituent has now done that, he told Koppelman, "my tax bill is now higher than my mortgage payment used to be."

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"This bill addresses the why. It stops the runaway stealth increases," he said.

When Kent Costin, the city of Fargo's director of finance, told the committee he opposed the bill and accused legislators of "attempting to 'overachieve' property tax reform with the many bills in the session, it brought a disgusted retort from one member of the Finance and Tax committee.

"I don't think we're trying to overachieve. We're just trying to take care of people's concerns (about) property tax increases," said Rep. Mike Brandenburg, R-Edgeley.

Burleigh County Auditor Kevin Glatt said the Koppelman proposal would create a costly headache for cities and counties forced to buy new software and add people to compute property taxes in a more complicated formula than they use now.

Sen. Tracy Potter, D-Bismarck, has a different idea: Because the state doesn't control local property tax assessments, he wants the Legislature to enact a law giving all property owners as well as renters and mobile home owners an income tax credit that reflects their property taxes.

His Senate Bill 2291 improves a bill the governor backs, he said. Gov. John Hoeven supports House Bill 1051, in which the state will use surplus in its Permanent Oil Tax Trust Fund to pay counties to cut all residential property taxes by 10 percent and commercial and farm properly taxes by 5 percent.

The problem with that plan, Potter said, is it is unfair because it has nothing for renters and mobile home owners. His bill gives renters and mobile home owners a 2 percent income tax credit.

The governor's plan will cost the state $116 million. Potter said his will cost $138 million.

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The state still would have more than $400 million in surplus, Potter said.

"This plan is clear, simple and direct. It doesn't tie the hands of the cities and counties," he said.

None of the several competing property tax relief bills propose so far this session have seen action yet.

Cole works for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Herald.

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