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Tax cut measure submitted for November ballot

BISMARCK -- North Dakotans will likely be voting on an income tax reduction this November. Sponsors of an initiated measure delivered 598 petitions containing about 15,600 signatures to Secretary of State Al Jaeger's office Monday. They need at l...

BISMARCK -- North Dakotans will likely be voting on an income tax reduction this November.

Sponsors of an initiated measure delivered 598 petitions containing about 15,600 signatures to Secretary of State Al Jaeger's office Monday. They need at least 12,844 valid signatures.

"With the (state government) surplus projections as they are, we believe it's time for tax relief for all North Dakotans," said Dustin Gawrylow of Americans for Prosperity, which sponsored the measure.

He said the group gathered about 20 percent more signatures than they needed to ensure there is a cushion of valid signatures in case some have to be thrown out.

Income taxes

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If voters approve Nov. 4, the measure would cut individual North Dakotans' income taxes in half and cut corporate income taxes by 15 percent.

The group, led by Duane Sand of Bismarck as state director of Americans For Prosperity, began gathering signatures last July, with former Gov. Ed Schafer being the first to sign.

Opponents of the measure have coalesced under the name Partners to Protect North Dakota's future.

They said in a prepared statement Monday that if passed, the measure "would force drastic cuts in essential state services and make real property tax relief impossible."

They said they are "ready to fight the Duane Sand plan" as a threat to the economic future and financial security of North Dakota.

Jaeger's office will spend the next 35 days verifying and validating signatures, which involves checking for signers' complete addresses and verifying a percentage through post-card mailing. His deadline to validate the petitions and approve or disapprove the measure for the general election ballot is Aug. 25.

In most initiated petition drives, at least a few signatures are invalidated for having incomplete addresses, or some signers respond to a postcard query from Jaeger's office saying they don't remember signing the petition.

Many times it's a matter of isolated mistakes, such as a missing ZIP code on some addresses, but in a few past petition drives over the past several years, some large numbers have been thrown out because petitions were not properly notarized or because of other serious questions.

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For instance, two years ago, Jaeger found five people were involved in turning in false signatures in Cass and Ramsey counties for a child custody and support petition drive. His office found petitions "signed" by dead people, the signature of a legislator who opposed the measure and other North Dakotans who, when contacted, told Jaeger's employees they had not signed. In that case, Jaeger disqualified 3,162 signatures, leaving 14,397 signatures accepted, and the measure still qualified for the ballot. It was defeated by voters.

There are seven additional initiated measures still circulating in North Dakota, on issues ranging from tobacco prevention funds to shared parenting to crude oil pipeline safety. Every one of them has an Aug. 5 deadline to submit petitions in order to be on the November ballot.

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