Yesterday more than 70 percent of North Dakota voters rejected a constitutional amendment that would have entirely eliminated all local property taxes. Which, while heartening, also suggests that about 30 percent of North Dakota voters are mind-numbingling stupid.
The amendment would have required the state legislature to replace the lost money with state funds, to the tune of about $800 million a year. North Dakota is currently sitting on a $1 billion surplus thanks to revenues from the state's oil boom. And had this amendment passed, what would have happened to North Dakota once the oil ran out? Disaster averted.
A couple of thoughts. First, legislators in Washington and other states might want to take notice that voters are willing to overwhelmingly support taxes when they understand what the taxes pay for. Second, a core argument of the no campaign was that the amendment would place too much control in the hands of state lawmakers—North Dakota voters seemed to intuit a key aspect of how oil wealth undermines democracies by eliminating the need for politicians to be responsive to the demands of taxpayers.