Dem-NPL Influence Tax Bill Despite no Representation on Conference Committee

As the Governor signs the $515M tax bill, Sen. Merrill Piepkorn (D-Fargo) and Rep. Zac Ista (D-Grand Forks) expressed relief that Democratic-NPL lawmakers were able to get needed changes to the bill, “Democrats’ ideas greatly influenced this final product. Democrats warned of the dangers of a flat tax and that it amounts to nothing more than a giveaway to the richest taxpayers. This bill recognizes that Democrats were right and moves away from the misguided flat tax. It’s far from perfect, but I’m glad to see the conference committee moved the income tax provisions to where they are now,” remarked Ista.

The property tax relief in this bill is much closer to Sen. Piepkorn’s proposal for a primary residence tax credit than it is to the complex mill buy down proposal favored by Republican lawmakers. It also expands the popular Homestead Tax Credit, which Democrats supported as bill co-sponsors this session. Piepkorn noted, “Democrats have always fought for a generous Homestead Property Tax credit, and this bill delivers on that goal. When I’ve been door-to-door talking to my constituents—my neighbors—the primary concern I hear is property tax, I’m glad we’re able to ease this burden.”

Ista emphasized, “The bill still has concerning long-term effects. This bill could have us on the hook for $600M in ongoing costs and reduced revenues. That’s money that can’t be invested in childcare, healthcare, or public education. We already see this session the growing gap between our revenues and our expenses; this bill will only widen that gap. The more we cut income tax, the more dependent we become on oil and gas taxes to make up the difference. That’s risky given the volatility of the oil market, whereas income taxes are stable. No one is clamoring for an income tax cut, and it’s very unclear why we insist on cutting taxes for wealthy North Dakotans especially. Believing the wealthy should pay their fair share isn’t class warfare, it’s common sense.”