It's official. When North Dakotans go into the voting booth this fall, they will be faced with a ballot initiative that would cut their state's personal income tax in half and reduce their state's corporate income tax by fifteen percent. The initiative, known as Measure 2, was approved late last month by Secretary of State Al Jaeger, despite the submission of several hundred fraudulent signatures, including at least one from beyond the grave.
While the process by which the initiative made its way onto the ballot may be troubling, its likely impact, should it make it into law, is even more worrisome. North Dakota voters and policymakers alike may be feeling flush due to an oil-boom-fueled budget surplus, but that surplus won't be around forever. The enormous tax cut that Measure 2 would engender, well in excess of $100 million per year, would be forever. Moreover, the vast majority of the tax reductions that Measure 2 would spawn would be realized by the very wealthiest North Dakotans -- at a time when the latest data from the Census Bureau show no improvement in income for the typical North Dakota household or in the state's poverty rate.