Voters in North Dakota overwhelmingly voted against getting rid of property taxes in a statewide referendum on Tuesday.
More than three out of every four voted not to amend the Roughrider State’s constitution to become the first in the nation without such a tax.
The proposal came in the middle of an oil boom which has given North Dakota the lowest unemployment rate in the country and left politicians in Bismarck in the enviable position of having large surpluses.
Connie Sprynczynatyk, executive director of the North Dakota League of Cities who opposed the proposal said North Dakotans realized it was all about local control. "We were confident as soon as people realized the measure's dramatic shift away from local control, they would not support the measure " Sprynczynatyk told CNN.
A grassroots organization called Empower the Taxpayer was behind the initiative — known as Measure 2. The group believes property taxes are unfair to those on fixed incomes. The group’s chairman, Charlene Nelson told the Bismarck Tribune, “Whether it passed or not, we knew this was only the first step in correcting this unfair tax.
“We started this movement before the oil boom,” Nelson told the Los Angeles Times. “But this isn’t about being flush with oil money. It’s based on principle. Property tax rates are rising faster than people’s ability to pay them.”
If passed, Measure 2 would have abolished property taxes retroactively to the start of the year and charged state politicians with finding a way to fund counties, cities and towns.
Opponents claimed that would lead to centralized control in Bismarck and possibly the need for a full-time state legislature to deal with oversight of some 2,100 municipalities.
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