Former North Dakota Rep. Rick Becker to circulate initiative that would prohibit property taxes

Former North Dakota Rep. Rick Becker (R) filed an initiative to amend the state’s constitution to prohibit property taxes in the state, except for those designed to pay for bond debt. The measure would limit the debt of a political subdivision (such as counties, cities, and towns) to 2.5% of the value of real property in the subdivision. Incorporated cities would be able to raise the debt limit to 4% through a two-thirds supermajority vote and school districts would be able to raise the debt limit to 5% through a simple majority vote. Cities would be able to become indebted by an additional 2% for water and sewer projects. A political subdivision would not be able to issue general obligation bonds to be paid back through property taxes after January 1, 2025.

The initiative was filed by former North Dakota Rep. Rick Becker (R) on June 19, 2023. It was approved for signature gathering on June 26, 2023, with 31,164 valid signatures due on February 12, 2023, to qualify for the 2024 primary ballot. To qualify for the November 2024 ballot, signatures are due by June 29, 2024.

North Dakota allows citizen-initiated measures in the form of initiated state statutes, initiated constitutional amendments, and veto referendums. The completed petition must be submitted at least 120 days prior to the election. Each initiative has its own unique deadline of one year after it was approved to circulate.

In North Dakota, the number of signatures required is tied to the population reported by the last decennial census. For statutes and veto referendums, the number of signatures required is 2% of the population. For constitutional amendments, it is 4% of the population. The requirement for 2024 is 15,582 signatures for initiated state statutes and veto referendums and 31,164 signatures for initiated constitutional amendments. Each initiative petition may circulate for one year after it is approved for circulation. All signatures must be submitted by July 8, 2024.

So far, the North Dakota State Legislature has referred three constitutional amendments to the 2024 ballot: one amendment would require a single-subject rule for initiatives, increase the signature requirement for constitutional initiatives, and require constitutional initiatives to be passed by voters at two successive general elections.

One amendment would revise language used in the state constitution to describe certain state institutions such as changing “insane” to “individuals with mental illness”, “feebleminded” to “individuals with developmental disabilities”, and “deaf and dumb” to “deaf and hard of hearing.”

One amendment would make changes to the state legacy fund, a fund that receives 30% of tax revenue from oil and gas production.

From 2010 to 2022, an average of between six and seven initiatives were filed with the secretary of state, of which, an average of three (49%) were certified for the ballot.

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