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Lawmakers reluctant to extend deadline for unpaid taxes

January 26, 2021 GMT

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota’s Republican-led Legislature has signaled its reluctance to back a bill that would extend the period of property tax delinquency from two years to five for homeowners before foreclosure.

The House Finance and Taxation Committee on Monday gave the bill a “do not pass” recommendation, despite an appeal from the bill’s sponsor that many people could lose their homes due to a shaky state economy brought on by the coronavirus pandemic and uncertainty about the state’s oil production and tax collections. The full House will debate the bill later.

Republican Rep. Bernie Satrom, of Jamestown, told the committee that extending the period to pay off a tax delinquency “could make the difference between staying in a home and driven out.”

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“If we run in to a deep recession and or depression, this could make a difference,” Satrom said. “Home ownership is a critical piece of stable communities.”

“Do cities and counties really want to own a lot of properties and have a lot of tax foreclosure sales?” he asked.

The Legislature in 2007 cut the deadline for property owners to pay their taxes from five years to two before a move was made to sell the properties at auction. The move was made after counties complained that some property owners, especially developers, were taking the entire time to pay the taxes.

“Developers tended to use counties as a bank,” said Terry Traynor, executive director of the North Dakota Association of Counties.

The current bill would only apply to owners who use the property as a primary residence.

Traynor, whose group opposes the bill, argued that extending the deadline for people who are behind on their tax payments may actually hurt them.

A property owner “can be so far in the hole that it is impossible for county to help them dig their way out,” he said.

Republican Rep. Craig Headland, the committee chairman, called the bill “well-intended, but said it “actually might promote abuse and burden other taxpayers.”