Internet Sales Tax: ND Uses Taxpayer Money to Get More Taxpayer Money?

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem (Photo via screenshot.)

Yesterday it was reported that North Dakota has joined 34 other states as a party to a law suit with South Dakota in seeking to force a sales tax for online purchases. Our very own Attorney General, Wayne Stenehjem, said this about it:

“A lot of the local brick and mortar stores in the states, certainly here in North Dakota are feeling it’s really not fair to them they collect and then remit to the state.”

I’m wondering when our state government suddenly became concerned about being “fair” when it came to taxation? Last I checked, things like the Income Tax – and most definitely the awful Property Tax – are less than “fair”.

Then we have these comments from our Tax Commissioner, Ryan Rauschenberger, on the issue:

“We estimate now maybe around $40 million a year that we’re losing because online retailers are not required to collect and remit online sales tax.”

At least Rauschenberger is somewhat honest– this is all about sucking more tax revenue from the people for an already bloated state government.

Recently Rob Port from the Say Anything Blog wrote about North Dakota losing 27,000 taxpayers in 2016. I have little doubt that such a figure is a significant factor in driving many of our officials to seek out ways to leech more from North Dakotans.

As the last Legislative Session was winding down, I wrote this :

“As the 65th Legislative Session draws to a close, I can only sum up my feelings towards the financial aspect of it in one word… disappointing. We all knew going into the session that the legislature had a spending problem in recent bienniums. Spending more than doubled over the last ten years. 

“We also knew that North Dakota ran into some economic woes in the most recent biennium as former Governor Jack Dalrymple had to call the legislature back into special session last August to deal with a $310 million budget shortfall. A self-inflicted problem for sure. 

“For some of us, the hope was going into the current session that the legislature had learned its lesson and was prepared to cut, cut, cut. You know, to maybe show some true fiscal conservatism. It was our hope – our dream – and as I’ve been told many times about dreams, ‘It’s yours. You can have it any way you want it.’ It seems it will remain that… just a dream.” (Emphasis Added)

Unfortunately, as you know, the Legislature didn’t make the necessary cuts and just four days later I shared the following numbers from the North Dakota Watchdog Network illustrating what reserve funds were raided to make the budget work :

 “$200 million from the Legacy Fund Earnings

$183 million from the Property Tax Relief Fund…

$248 million from Strategic Investment and Improvement Fund

$160 million from the Foundation Aid Stabilization Fund for K-12 Education (money which would otherwise have come from the General Fund) 

“That is $791 million pulled from reserve funds, and that is after the Budget Stabilization Fund was drained to prop up the 2015-17 budget.”

Our State Legislature’s problem really has little or nothing to do with revenue. It has everything to do with spending. The majority of them simply don’t have the intestinal fortitude to cut back. Instead, it seems, they are trying to figure out any angle they can to avoid cutting like they should.

Back in early April I wrote about House Majority Leader Al Carlson (R – District 41) acknowledging that all departments would have 15-20% cuts, with two exceptions … K-12 education and Health & Human Services (HHS).

Less than two weeks ago, I wrote about the push by some to raise the state’s Motor Fuel Tax. In addition to this, we have property owners around the state who are already being hit with notices of increases in Property Tax.

One of the unfortunate things about this is what Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger represent– the Republican Party of North Dakota. And forgive me, but this is just awful for a party that is supposedly one that stands for small government and fiscal responsibility.

To me, this isn’t about fairness. This is about a state that seemingly doesn’t want to reduce the size and scope of government like they should. Instead, they seem content to try finding ways here and there to sock it to the people. Make no mistake about it, this would be a tax increase and nothing else.

Another unacceptable aspect out of all of this is the fact that participating in a law suit likely costs the state a chunk of money– taxpayer money. Yes, the state is using our money to engage in a legal process by which they hope to extract more money from us. A move that I find both unnecessary and even despicable.

Wouldn’t it be nice if our majority Republicans actually acted like… well… Republicans?


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About T. Arthur Mason 883 Articles
T. Arthur Mason is a native North Dakotan who has spent nearly all of his life in the Peace Garden State. As the third of four children in Western North Dakota, Mason grew to appreciate family and the outdoors. Some of his fondest memories are annual deer hunts with family and friends. In his early teenage years, faith became a central part of T. Arthur Mason's life. He and the majority of his family attend church together on a weekly basis and find this a fulfilling aspect of their lives. Through the influence of his father, T. Arthur Mason became intrigued with politics. As a boy, he attended political events with his father and enjoyed the friendships that resulted as a byproduct of those political associations. As Mason grew older, he became convinced that the quote often attributed to Thomas Jefferson was true, "That government is best which governs least." Today, T. Arthur Mason enjoys time with his wife and children, an occasional hunt, and an increasingly active life on the political scene. This blog is the fulfillment of a dream to design a web site in the realm of politics and to advocate for the principles of Liberty and constitutionally limited government. On behalf of all those that contribute to The Minuteman, we hope you enjoy your time on the site and will share the message with others.