By April Baumgarten
Almost 70 people met Thursday at Dickinson City Hall to listen to advocates and opponents of Measure 2. While both sides kept the debate heated, they agreed on one thing -- voters need to read the document before they make a final decision.
"People that are opposing this measure I ask them every day, 'Have you read it?'" said Charles Tuttle, spokesman for Empower the Taxpayer, a group supporting Measure 2. "Ninety-nine percent of the time they tell me, 'I haven't read the full measure.' Don't believe anything I say until you read the measure."
The Forum on Measure 2, which was sponsored by the Dickinson Area Chamber of Commerce and The Dickinson Press, pitted the two groups against each other with submitted questions from the public. Tuttle said 29,000 people signed the petition to get the measure on the June 12 ballot, which would abolish property taxes in North Dakota. The state has tried to fix the tax 135 times and the only way to solve the problem is to get rid of it, he added.
Abolishing property taxes would force local governments to go to the state Legislature and ask for funding like children, said Josh Askvig, spokesman for Measure 2 challenger Keep It Local Coalition.
"Do you want people in Fargo deciding whether you in Dickinson get schools or not?" he asked. "I think at the end of the discussion tonight that hopefully you'll understand why a large group of 80-plus organizations representing well over 200,000 people across North Dakota took a look at this and said this isn't a good idea."
State Rep. Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson, thought some facts were left out of the discussion, such as for what the money from property taxes is used.
"We wouldn't be spending that money if we didn't have it," he said. "The property tax really goes back to the people, and it's called spending."
While the forum would have been livelier if the audience were allowed to ask questions, it would have lasted a lot longer, Wardner said.
Property taxes are outdated and there are better things citizens could spend that money on, Dickinson Measure 2 supporter Tasha Steinbach said.
"When it was first established, farmers were using their land to make an income, so their land was working for them," she said. "Now with a house on it, what is that land doing for you? It's holding up your house. It is something pretty to look at, but I'm not getting an income off of it."
The representative was not sure if there would be a tax shift but assured the state Legislature was not for raising taxes. Wardner does not support the measure but said there will be some meaningful reform whether it passes or fails.
(c)2012 the Dickinson Press (Dickinson, N.D.)