North Dakota’s Legislative Assembly has a tax and spend problem. Some of us have been saying this for years. In fact, just a week ago, we published an article showing that North Dakota is #1 for state and local tax collections per capita. Yet, talk about eliminating income tax and property tax or cutting spending and a majority of legislators in Bismarck squeal like stuck pigs.
In what might be the best floor speech I’ve ever heard from Rep. Rick Becker (R – District 7), he took his colleagues to task yesterday, during debate on House Bill 1535, for their lack of fiscal conservatism over the course of the last decade. Not only did he explain the steep trajectory of the state’s spending, but he illustrated the fact that North Dakota could completely eliminate all income tax and property tax and still be spending half a billion dollars more than our neighbors in South Dakota— a state with comparable demographics. In fact, we’d still be #4 in the nation in state and local revenue per capita.
Here’s a little taste of what Rep. Becker said:
“If these numbers don’t blow your mind, like they did mine, then I don’t know what would. But to think that we don’t have the room to get rid of income tax — and to get rid of property tax — you’re sorely mistaken. And I think you need to check on what fiscal conservatism actually means.”
As a side note, the speech came shortly after the House passed Rep. Craig Headland’s (R – District 29) House Bill 1530, which proposes to use Legacy Fund earnings to reduce income taxes— with the goal of eventually eliminating them.
I suppose it’s not surprising that a majority of the House aren’t remorseful for their lack of conservatism though. Rep. Kim Koppelman’s (R – District 13) HB 1535 would have set the income tax rate at a flat 2%. Following Rep. Becker’s comments, that bill was defeated by a vote of 30-62. They then proceeded to kill House Bill 1319 — by a vote of 20-72 — which would have set the income tax rate at zero. That bill was actually sponsored by Becker. I should also note that this same legislative body defeated Rep. Jeff Hoverson’s House Bill 1222 a week ago, which would have completely eliminated the income tax. That vote was 17-71.
Let’s be honest— what we see here is more evidence that Rep. Rick Becker is right. There’s a complete disregard for significant tax relief and fiscal conservatism from the State Legislature. The majority of them simply aren’t interested in limited government and scaling back an unnecessarily large state budget.
I highly recommend you listen to Rep. Becker’s floor speech. You can do so by clicking here. It’s not long, and it’s most certainly worth your time.
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