There is another sign that House Bill 1216, the repeal of the property tax cap, will not pass: the Governor doesn't support it. He sent Mike Houdyshell from the Department of Revenue to offer the only opponent testimony in House Taxation yesterday.

Houdyshell defended the property tax cap as the product of voter demands expressed through a series of ballot initiatives. Houdyshell listed four initiated measures that he said represented a popular revolt against property tax increases, which averaged 6% a year from 1947 to 1995:

Year Measure Provisions Vote Yes Vote No
1980 Constitutional Amendment B (“Dakota Proposition”) set maximum property tax at 1% of full and true value 37% 63%
1988 Constitutional Amendment C (“Dakota Proposition 2”) set maximum property tax on ag land at 1%, non-ag land at 2.5%, based on 1984 values 39% 61%
1990 Constitutional Amendment E set maximum property tax increase at 2% per year 45% 55%
1994 Initiated Measure 1 set maximum property tax at 1% of assessed value; freeze assessments at January 1 1995 level; allow no increase in assessed value except in change of ownership or new construction; cap increases at 1.25% 49.45% 50.55%

As Houdyshell notes, momentum was building for limits on property tax. But none of these four initiatives passed. At no point up to 1995 did the voters express the will to impose the caps that Governor Janklow and the Legislature made law in 1995. Yet Houdyshell portrayed the statutes he came to defend against HB 1216 as an expression of the popular will with which twenty years later we should not tinker.

Wow. We Democrats have only asked for the Legislature to keep its hands off initiatives that actually pass for one year (and House State Affairs killed that proposal, HB 1175, 10–2 yesterday). The Governor's office tells the Legislature it should respect the apparent momentum of four initiatives that failed decades ago.

But hey, maybe the Legislature agrees that it should not cross the popular will. As Bob Mercer reports, the House has soundly rejected one GOP effort to change the minimum-wage initiative voters passed last November. One down, one to go....