Members of Keep It Local North Dakota, a group opposed to the June 12 ballot measure that would abolish property taxes in North Dakota, labeled it as the wrong approach to handling people's tax burden. They spoke during a Wednesday morning news conference at the Bismarck-Mandan Chamber of Commerce.
North Dakota Chamber of Commerce President Andy Peterson called Measure 2 a reckless attempt at a solution to dealing with property taxes.
"This is an extremist measure and we think it should go away," Peterson said. "Can I say this any more directly? This is not the right thing for North Dakota."
Peterson said contrary to what proponents of Measure 2 claim, it would take control away from local government subdivisions and centralize it with the state Legislature. Peterson said local government leaders would need to come to the Legislature to get budget approval and permission for community projects.
Members of Keep It Local North Dakota believe Measure 2 would have a major impact on the Legislature.
"They're afraid it would go into a full-time session," Peterson said.
At least one member of the Legislature has already told him he would probably resign if Measure 2 were to pass and the Legislature were to become full-time, Peterson said.
Another major concern of the coalition was how the revenue would be replaced by abolishing property taxes.
Peterson said approximately $800 million is collected annually in property taxes. He added that the language of Measure 2 requires the Legislature to "fully and properly fund all legally imposed obligations of state government" by developing a formula that would use a variety of tax revenues. He said it amounts to a tax shift and could lead to an increase in sales taxes as well as personal and corporate income taxes.
"It will chase employers out of the state," Peterson said.
Bismarck-Mandan Chamber of Commerce President Kelvin Hullet said the coalition sees the issue of legally imposed obligations as being unclear and can see Measure 2 running into legal problems.
"We think it would likely take years, if not a couple of decades, to sort out," Hullet said.
North Dakota Education Association President Dakota Draper said property taxes account for approximately 30 percent of most North Dakota school districts' budgets. Draper said the NDEA is very concerned about schools possibly losing a major chuck of funding as well as not knowing where the funds would come from if property taxes were abolished.
"We see Measure 2 not as a measure that will help North Dakota," Draper said.
Peterson said he gave credit to Empower the Taxpayer, the group that studied and crafted Measure 2, for starting a conversation on how to address the people's tax burden.
"That being said, it's the wrong decision," Peterson said, in reference to the measure.
Wednesday morning's news conference was the first of six to be held this week across the state by Keep It Local North Dakota.
"Our sole focus right now is defeating this measure," Peterson said.
For more information on Keep It Local North Dakota, visit www.keepitlocalnd.com.