Dem-NPL: Address present challenges and make permanent investments to strengthen state of the state in decades to come

Dem-NPL: Address present challenges and make permanent investments to strengthen state of the state in decades to come

Amid falling oil prices, Dem-NPL leaders call on GOP to scrap income tax elimination plan, work together to reform property taxes and maintain stable state budget

(BISMARCK, N.D.) – In response to Governor Jack Dalrymple’s state of the state address, House and Senate Dem-NPL leaders, Representative Kenton Onstad and Senator Mac Schneider, today called for urgent action to address oil impacts and long-term investments to diversify North Dakota’s economy in the decades beyond the current biennium. The legislative leaders also called on the GOP majority to jettison plans advanced by House Majority Leader Al Carlson and others to eliminate the income tax in favor of a bipartisan effort to reform property taxes.

“While the elephant in the room this session is the falling price of oil, our state presently has resources in hand to address critical needs that have been left unaddressed for far too long,” said Representative Kenton Onstad, House Dem-NPL Leader. “Whether it is oil impacts on infrastructure or the plague of human trafficking, funding to address these needs should have gone out last session, or at the very latest during the special session we called for last spring. Abandoning oil-impacted communities because we’ve seen a dip in the market price for oil would be shortsighted, and we intend to hold the GOP majority to the promises they made to western North Dakota during campaign season.”

Onstad, who represents a legislative district that has experienced significant oil development since the start of the boom, has long championed providing an increased share of the oil production tax to western North Dakota communities to address needs as they arise. Last session, Onstad’s bipartisan “catch up and plan” initiative (HB 1318) would have dedicated approximately 80% of the oil production tax towards addressing oil impacts during that biennium.

“The state of the state address is an appropriate time to celebrate North Dakota’s good fortune,” said Senator Mac Schneider, Senate Dem-NPL Leader. “Now that we’re heading into the session, however, we believe our colleagues can learn a soft lesson from the falling price of oil now or a hard lesson later. This session must be about making permanent investments that will pay off long after the boom has subsided, not permanently eliminating the income tax that we may someday need to fund basic services like public education. As we ask the majority to change course on their drive to do away with the income tax, we extend a hand to work together to reform and sustainably cut the tax that people are most concerned about — the property tax.”

Schneider intends to introduce a concurrent resolution, which if approved by the legislature and North Dakota voters, would turn the bulk of the Foundation Aid Stabilization Fund into an endowment to provide access to higher education as well as career and technical education for North Dakota’s best and brightest. The Foundation Aid Stabilization Fund has only been utilized once since its creation in 1994 and is projected to soon top $1 billion. Modeled after Wyoming’s successful Hathaway Scholarship, the return on the endowment’s principal would provide a permanent funding source for merit scholarships that is independent of ongoing tax revenues.

Onstad and Schneider also identified the following immediate priorities and long-term investments as goals for their caucuses this session:

  • Assisting victims of human trafficking: Provide services to victims and ensure successful prosecution of traffickers.
  • Separate regulation and promotion of oil and gas development: Sensibly divest these two important roles to ensure responsible development of our natural resources.
  • Cut taxes for North Dakota families and small businesses: Exempt from property taxation the first $100,000 from the value of a primary residence, provide a tax credit for renters, eliminate the sales tax on clothing, and repeal the tax on Social Security benefits.
  • Invest in education at all levels: Promote access to pre-kindergarten, ensure accountability in higher education, and freeze tuition at North Dakota colleges and universities.

“Dem-NPL legislators are all about keeping North Dakota families strong and safe, both now and into the future,” Onstad added.


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From:: Dem-NPL News

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