Group to push for tax reform

Bismarck Tribune – April 5th, 2007

A new player in the property tax debate emerged Wednesday with the formation of group known as Citizens for Property Tax Reform.

Constructed from a partnership of established lobbying organizations and grassroots groups, the groups’ main aim is to create long-term property tax reform. Robert Harms, president of a member group known as Citizens for Responsible Government, said the new organization will push for reform on both the state and local levels.

“The message is that property tax rebates or relief must come with property tax reform that ensures that property taxes don’t just continue to go up,” he said.

In addition to Harms’ group, Citizens for Property Tax Reform is made up of the Land Owners Association of North Dakota, Americans for Prosperity, North Dakota Association of Realtors, North Dakota Policy Council, National Federation of Independent Businesses, North Dakota Stockmen’s Association, North Dakota Hospitality Association, North Dakotans for Change and the North Dakota Farm Bureau.

Harms said the partnership is “volunteer based” and not funded by any specific entity.

The groups’ formation comes as the Legislature is debating numerous proposals to give North Dakotans a break in their local property taxes.

The most prominent measure would use state money to offer 10 percent rebate checks to homeowners and 5 percent rebate checks to business and farm owners. It has become controversial because of a proposal by the state House that would cap how much local entities could raise their property taxes.

Harms said his group, which favors restricting how much local governments can raise taxes, is not too late to affect the debate.

Mark Johnson, executive director of the North Dakota Association of Counties, questioned the use of such a group.

He said people can simply elect a local government that shares their values on taxes instead of joining a group that will be lobbying the Legislature to make local decisions.

“It’s not needed, because that’s what you elect local officials for,” Johnson said.

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