The state House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a bill that would allow local governments to replace some special assessments with a fee on utility bills.
Special assessments are taxes levied against property that benefits from a public project such as a street upgrade. House Bill 1419 would let local governments replace some types of specials meant to fund infrastructure maintenance with a fee paid by all utility users. Voters would have to approve any proposed fee.
The bill sponsored by Rep. Jason Dockter, R-Bismarck, passed 75-19 with an amendment to ensure fee revenue is spent only on infrastructure maintenance. It now moves to the Senate.
Supporters of the legislation say it would allow for more local control. Local governments right now can't institute an infrastructure fee because of a 2017 law limiting their authority to levy taxes.
Bismarck City Administrator Keith Hunke testified in support of the bill before the House Political Subdivisions Committee last month.
In Bismarck, the fee would replace street maintenance special assessments. It would not replace other types of specials, such as those levied for storm water infrastructure improvements.
Mandan City Administrator Jim Neubauer testified in opposition, saying infrastructure fees would put cities and counties with smaller sales tax collections per capita at a disadvantage. Bismarck is able to pay for some street maintenance with sales tax revenue, while Mandan cannot, he said.
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