Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Social Service Funding Plan Suffers Setback in House Tax Committee

The House Finance and Tax Committee stripped the only tool this Legislative Session that addresses the delivery of permanent property tax relief to the citizens of North Dakota. Committee members adopted an amendment prepared for Representative Al Carlson which essentially turns the bill into another two year study of the social service funding plan. The amendment instructs the Department of Human Services to develop an implementation plan for the eventual state funding of county social services during the 2017-18 interim. 

“This is a very disappointing day,” commented Mark Johnson, Executive Director of the North Dakota Association of Counties. “We worked very hard to make this plan acceptable to the Legislative body. Numerous representatives from the state tax department, state human service department, legislators, county commissioners and county social service directors spent the last two years diligently looking at how this could work. We felt this was a solid plan.”

Chairman Craig Headland told his committee it is the legislature’s intent to move forward with this plan but a number of details in how this plan would be implemented still need to be flushed out, which can be done by further studying the issue. “Without knowing what is happening with our revenues, I don’t believe it is the right time to do it,” said Headland.

The study is to identify options for efficiencies with the take-over of the funding. Many committee members pointed out how counties are already finding efficiencies and sharing services. 

Representative Jason Dockter pointed to the proposed formula in SB 2206 as driving efficiencies over time. “I hope the legislature intends to move forward on funding mandates we require at some point,” emphasized Representative Ben Koppleman.  

Johnson added, “I really don’t know how we can study this issue any further. This is a drastic departure from what several parties were trying to accomplish this session by finding  an ‘off ramp’ from the unpredictable growth of the 12 percent buy-down of property taxes and instead deliver property tax relief in a much more meaningful and predictable fashion. This essentially ‘kicks the can down the road’ for another two years. What is unfortunate is that the people of North Dakota will be missing out from having property tax relief delivered in this method if this amendment is passed.”

The amendment replaces all the prior language in SB 2206. It will go to the full House for its approval. Because the House version is different from the version approved in the Senate, this bill will more than likely go to conference committee where members from each chamber will work on a compromise. NDACo will work diligently to work to restore the bill to something more similar as to what was introduced and passed in the Senate. 
The amendment can be found at this link: which can be viewed by following this link: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B4bYba4CUTL1SUFDSEhnWEJNWmM

Hear reaction from NDACo Exec. Director, Mark Johnson below:

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