Grafton hosts legislative forum Saturday
SB 2336 – Oil tax bill a contentious topic
The North Dakota Legislature is currently on their crossover break, allowing for legislators in District 19, which consists of Eastern Walsh County and part of Grand Forks County, to hear thoughts of their constituents.
Sen. Tom Campbell, Grafton; Rep. Gary Paur, Gilby; and Rep. Wayne Trottier, Northwood, were on hand to discuss issues that District 19 residents were concerned with at meetings at Granny’s Family Restaurant in Grafton and at the Minto Community Center.
The Grafton event was held as a part of Scott Hennen’s statewide “Legislature Today” show, which aired live from Granny’s for a portion of the show.
The official date of the legislative crossover, according to the North Dakota Legislative website, was Friday, March 1.
SB 2036—Home Tax Relief
Sen. Campbell presented to those gathered some data regarding Senate Bill 2036, which is the homestead property tax relief bill.
According to Campbell, if passed by both the House and Senate, SB 2036 would provide a significant tax break to homeowners.
For example, if a homeowner’s property was valued at $80,000 true and full, that person would save an additional $400 off their tax bill.
“This is in addition to the current buydown,” Campbell said.
He told those gathered that the formula is simple—for every $100,000 value of a house, homeowners would save about $600 off their tax bill.
“I’ve found out that people are frustrated with our tax system, because it’s complex,” Campbell said.
Walsh County Farm Bureau President Kevin Hall, Hoople, said that he’s saddened to hear the discussion on property taxes.
“We (Farm Bureau) feel that we want property tax reform, not property tax relief,” Hall said.
The Senate passed the legislation recently by a vote of 46-0.
SB 2277—Clothing tax bill
Sen. Campbell addressed to those gathered the fact that the Senate rejected a bill to eliminate sales tax on clothing.
“We felt people wanted income and property tax relief instead,” Campbell said. “A lot of people didn’t even know we had tax on clothing.”
SB 2358—Sales tax bill
The other tax bill, SB 2358, was in regards to lowering the sales tax from five percent to four-and-a-half percent.
Campbell said SB 2358’s demise was related much to the same as SB 2277.
SB 2336—Oil tax bill
A contentious topic has to do with oil tax.
SB 2336 has to do with the stripper well and oil extraction tax.
“It sends the message that we are a very oil friendly state,” Campbell said.
One company invested almost a billion dollars alone in North Dakota last year, Campbell said.
“We don’t want to lose any oil companies,” he said. “Because they can move very fast.”
If enacted, the tax would change from 6 ½ percent to 4 ½ percent, a big change in the eyes of Campbell.
“Instead of making that big of a jump, maybe go down just one percent,” he said.
Rep. Paur said the House is debating a similar bill, and he said people on his side seem not too happy with it.
“That doesn’t mean it’s not a good bill,” he said.
Paur reminded that the state is creeping up on Texas in regards to amount of production, with a small amount of wells.
“The quality is higher here than in Texas,” he said.
Paur said he doesn’t think North Dakota’s oil taxes are out of line, based on what’s going on in North Dakota.
Trottier said that if prices were to drop below the $52 threshold currently in the bill, the state would lose considerable income.
HB 1215—Gun control
A topic garnering a lot of discussion was the House’s passing of HB 1215, a bill in which the local school governing board would have control over whether or not anyone with a concealed weapons permit to carry gun in school as long as local board approves.
Grafton Public School superintendent Jack Maus was in attendance at the meeting, and spoke strongly against the bill.
“If we are going to have guns in school, I think we should do it with police visibility, and not with arming our administrators or teachers,” Maus said.
One way of having police visibility is through having a school resource officer (SRO).
The Grafton Public School District, along with Grafton Police Department, has a SRO in the school buildings. Officer Aaron Cymbaluk spends part of his time as a SRO within the district, while the other portion is spent patrolling the streets with the Grafton PD.