Rep. Al Novstrup (R-3/Aberdeen) cites as his top accomplishment for the 2015 Legislature the defeat of House Bill 1207:
Rep. Justin Cronin brought HB 1207 out of concern that the capital outlay tax is the only tax without a restriction. Putting these brakes on capital outlay levies would have diverted another $72 to the per-student allocation, which would have bumped this year’s increase in K-12 support from 2% to 3.5%. HB 1207 was intended to relieve pressure on taxpayers, meaning it was a net decrease in K-12 funding, but compromise amendments induced education groups to give it tepid support. The bill nonetheless failed, with Rep. Novstrup, five other Republicans, and three other Democrats on House Taxation deferring it to the 41st day.
We can read this vote a couple ways. We can say that conservative Republican Al Novstrup stopped K-12 education from losing $9 million. We could say that Rep. Novstrup kept the schools from accessing another $9 million to increase teacher pay (remember: capital outlay pays for buildings, computers, and other physical equipment, not human resources). We could say that Rep. Novstrup hastened a property tax revolt, allowing local school districts to levy capital outlay as high as they want (although superintendents testifying against the bill said they had heard no rumbles of such rebellion).
But what if we universalize the thinking behind the defeat of HB 1207? In rejecting this bill, Rep. Novstrup seems to be saying we can trust local districts to set capital outlay tax levies at appropriate levels, without the need to go through an extra opt-out process. If we can trust local districts on capital outlay, why not trust them on all of their levies? Why not extend counties and other taxing entities the same trust? Why not remove all of Bill Janklow’s property tax caps and let local control rule? (Rep. Novstrup supported that idea in his vote for the unsuccessful House Bill 1216.)