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Entries in North Dakota (4)

Wednesday
Jun132012

North Dakota Votes Against Abolishing Property Tax

Creatas/Thinkstock(BISMARCK, N.D.) -- North Dakotans took their angst against property taxes to the polls on Tuesday, an issue that's been gaining traction in other parts of the U.S.  Polls closed at 8 p.m. central time and results show voters ultimately rejected the constitutional amendment.

Measure 2 proposed to eliminate North Dakota's property taxes, which amount to $812 million annually, retroactive to Jan. 1 of this year.  If the measure had passed, the state would have been the first to eliminate local property taxes, the mainstay of cities and towns.

"People shouldn't have their homes held hostage," said Charlene Nelson, 52, chairwoman of the organized effort behind Measure 2, Empower the Taxpayer.  "The state has more than enough revenue to pay for K through 12 education as well as government services without kicking people out of their homes."

The issue of increasing property taxes is contentious in many parts of the country as local governments tried to raise additional revenue during the downturn.  The National Taxpayers Union reported 30 percent of properties in the U.S. are assessed at higher values than they are worth.  Counties in New York and New Jersey have the 14 highest median real estate taxes paid in the country.

The debate on lowering or eliminating property taxes has gained traction in states like Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Texas.

Nelson said her group and state legislators considered reforming property tax policy, including mimicking California's Proposition 13, which decreased property taxes.  Nelson also supported a bill in 2009 that ultimately failed.

"Every solution we looked at only created more inequity, created more confusion and complication and didn't address so the fundamental core issue of property taxes," she said.  "The issue of a property tax really was unfixable."

Nelson said the state has "more than enough" money with its $5 billion state surplus without the additional revenue from property taxes.  She said there are better ways to fund local governments.

"It all comes out of taxpayers' pockets -- right or left.  The question is should our homes be at risk, and we say they shouldn't," Nelson said.

The measure stated that property taxes must be replaced with revenue from state sales taxes, individual and corporate income taxes, oil and gas production, tobacco taxes, lottery revenue and other sources.

Groups like the North Dakota Chamber of Commerce opposed the measure, calling it "draconian" and "ill-advised."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jun122012

North Dakota Votes on Measure to Eliminate Property Taxes 

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NORTH DAKOTA) -- North Dakotans take their angst against property taxes to the polls Tuesday. It's an issue gaining traction in other parts of the U.S., though opponents of a measure to eliminate the tax say the state isn't as cash-rich as it seems.

Measure 2 proposes to eliminate North Dakota's property taxes, which amount to $812 million annually, retroactive to Jan. 1 of this year. If the measure passes, the state would be the first to eliminate local property taxes, the mainstay of cities and towns.

"People shouldn't have their homes held hostage," said Charlene Nelson, 52, chairwoman of the organized effort behind Measure 2, Empower the Taxpayer. "The state has more than enough revenue to pay for K through 12 education as well as government services without kicking people out of their homes."

It is one of four measures on a ballot for which polls close at 8 p.m. Central time on Tuesday, including a proposal to change the University of North Dakota's "Fighting Sioux" logo and nickname.

The issue of increasing property taxes is contentious in many parts of the country as local governments tried to raise additional revenue during the downturn. The National Taxpayers Union reported 30 percent of properties in the U.S. are assessed at higher values than they are worth. Counties in New York and New Jersey have the 14 highest median real estate taxes paid in the country.

The debate on lowering or eliminating property taxes is gaining traction in states like Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Texas.

Nelson said her group and state legislators have considered reforming property tax policy, including mimicking California's Proposition 13, which decreased property taxes. Nelson also supported a bill in 2009 that ultimately failed.

Nelson said the state has "more than enough" money with its $5 billion state surplus without the additional revenue from property taxes. Nelson said there are better ways to fund local governments.

The measure states that property taxes must be replaced with revenue from state sales taxes, individual and corporate income taxes, oil and gas production, tobacco taxes, lottery revenue and other sources.

Groups like the North Dakota Chamber of Commerce oppose the measure, calling it "draconian" and "ill-advised."

Previous constitutional measures, some that passed as early as 1920, left the state with only about a $730 million surplus as of June 30 last year, lower than what property taxes fund in one year, according to North Dakota's Chamber of Commerce.

Andy Peterson, president of North Dakota's Chamber of Commerce, suspects the measure will fail three to one, in part because of residents' cautiousness toward spending.

"It's a very conservative state and we like it that way," said Peterson. "It's just the culture here."

Jon Godfread, the North Dakota Chamber of Commerce's vice president of governmental affairs, says the measure would take away control from local governments -- whose main source of revenue is property taxes.

"We think local government is the best government because it's closest to the people," Peterson said.

If property tax revenue dries up, the state's 2,100 units of local government will have to come to the state legislature "begging for money."

That will be challenging as the state has a biennial legislature that meets 80 days every two years.

"We're all for tax reform and lowering the tax burden but unfortunately this measure goes too far," Godfread said. "What we feel is there will be tax increases elsewhere."

Nelson said there would be no need to raise taxes elsewhere.

"If taxes are raised it will be a political decision and not an economic one. It will be to appease special interest groups that want unlimited access to family budgets," she said.

Even if the measure fails as polls predict, Nelson said she will continue working on the issue.

"If it doesn't pass," she said, "we've just begun."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Oct192011

Unemployed Flock to North Dakota; What's Their Secret?

LCDM Universal History Archive/Getty Images(BISMARK, N.D.) -- Bismarck is booming. In this North Dakota city, an economic portrait has emerged that is unlike any other in America. When landing in the state, the signs of growth can be seen everywhere.

Lines at the airport are longer than ever -- a record number of passengers entered the state last year, and a new hangar is being built to accommodate the droves that are still coming. The airport is trying to get the hangar finished before winter hits, which could be any day.

Jobs are also in season. Help wanted signs are visible everywhere. Insurance sales, restaurants, retail -- they are all hiring.

There are 16,000 jobs up for grabs in North Dakota right now, with 3,000 in Bismarck, where unemployment is at a stunningly low three percent.

Behind the growth is the oil boom to the west of the state fueling the economy. It looks to jump ahead of California and Alaska in oil production to become No. 2 in the country.

Economists say it's not just the oil. They say Bismarck has a broad portfolio. Prices for agriculture, wheat and corn are up across the board. Farmers are doing well here.

Manufacturing is also up -- meat plants and factories that make heaters are hiring, to name a few.

After finding a job in Bismarck, the next major hurdle is finding a home. This is one of the few areas of the country where there's a housing boom.

The Hruby family moved to Country Lane in Bismarck from Wisconsin, and was put in a bidding war with other incoming buyers.

"The day they accepted our offer, they got 25 other calls," said Angela Hruby.

Some homes sell there in three weeks or less, and get 99 percent of the asking price -- sometimes more. Despite the national slump, home values are going up -- six percent this year.

In a town where the leaves have already changed colors, and Taylor Swift plays on the radio -- the hits just keep coming.

At St. Alexis hospital -- there's also been another boom -- babies. Every time a lullaby plays over the PA system, it means a new baby is born in Bismarck.

A doctor says that not long ago fewer than 90 deliveries a month was the norm. Now, doctors deliver about 110 babies a month, about 240 more babies a year at St. Alexis alone.

As the babies grow, so does Bismarck. Growing bigger every day.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jan262011

Nevada Had Highest Jobless Rate in 2010; North Dakota Had Lowest

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Sixteen states experienced an increase in unemployment during 2010, even as the overall national unemployment rate went down by half a percentage point, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' latest state and regional unemployment report.

Released Tuesday, the report found Nevada topped the national unemployment list last year with a 14.5 percent rate -- the highest level of unemployment in the state’s history.  California came in second place on the list with 12.5 percent and Florida closely followed in third with 12 percent.

North Dakota was the best place in the nation by jobless rates with 3.8 percent.  Nebraska with 4.4 percent and South Dakota 4.6 percent came in a close second and third with their low rates.

Of note, half of the country -- 25 states -- reported unemployment rates significantly lower than then 9.4 percent national average.  Seventeen states had rates that were statistically at the national average, while the eight remaining states were statistically higher than the average.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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