Some opponents of citizen initiative and referendum argue that voters will always opt for tax cuts. I only wish.
Yesterday, North Dakotans decided not to eliminate their state’s property tax. Measure 2 wouldn’t have lowered property taxes, it would have abolished them. Even in a land booming with new-found oil and gas, and a state government surfing in surpluses, a whopping 78 percent of voters weren’t willing to go that far.
Chalk it up to fear — unfounded fear. North Dakota State government is running a surplus bigger than the state’s property tax take.
As is too often the case, voters saw a one-sided campaign, with spending by the forces of big government — public employee unions and those extracting financial gain from the political status quo — completely outmatching the resources taxpayers had to get their message out. On Measure 2, the No side outspent the Yes side by more than 26 to 1.
Empower the Taxpayer, led by Bob Hale and Charlene Nelson, made the argument that property taxes are particularly malicious because people can lose their homes and farms if they can’t afford the taxes. That argument did not win the day.
But there will be other days. I often tell the story of a 2002 Arkansas initiative campaign to “ax the food tax.” The measure to end the sales tax on food and medicine was slaughtered at the ballot box. Still, now a decade later, the tax has been reduced from 6 percent to 1.5 percent.
North Dakotans voted to keep the state university’s Fighting Sioux mascot. The Fighting Taxpayers may be around even longer.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.