Mandan News

Dan Ulmer: New idea for the N.D. lottery

Tired of paying taxes and not feeling like you ever get anything for them? Both my loyal readers know that my work hasn’t allowed me to miss more than a few days of every North Dakota legislative session since 1983.

As such I’ve learned that grassroots movements can have a great effect on legislation, and since you’re what politicians call “grassroots” constituents, I have this crazy idea I’d like to share with you. The only hitch is if you like my idea I encourage you to contact your local legislator to see if they would be willing to make this crazy idea a reality. (Around here that’d be Dwight Cook, ReAnn Keslch, Todd Porter, Jim Schmidt, Karen Rohr, XXX, Gary Kriedt, dittel heand, and Randy Christianson.)

The lottery is the only volunteer tax that I know of; in hopes of winning bazillions most of us have been known to voluntarily contribute a buck or so.

We all pay property, sales and income taxes, and no one seems happy about paying any of them. So if you had a chance to win $1,000,000 just because you paid your taxes, would that make you happier about paying them? We’ll name it the N.D.’s taxpayer lottery.

Here’s how it would work. In North Dakota, not counting fees and licenses and such, at least six cents out of every dollar we spend goes to pay sales tax. I’ll take a swag and say that average homeowners pay between $3,000 and $4,000 per year in property taxes and around a grand or so in income taxes.

So why don’t we have the legislature create a lottery where once a year the names of every N.D. resident taxpayer (excluding corporations and nonprofits etc., only individuals would be eligible) would be put in a barrel and three drawings would occur.

There could be a drawing for those who pay sales tax, another for income tax, and another for property taxes. Each year this lottery would give a million to a resident property owner, a million to a resident income tax payer, and a million to each sales taxpayer… and all you and I would have to do is prove that we’ve paid one of those taxes.

Given that our state government is sitting on billions (I recently heard that the oil tax is presently bringing in $6 million a day) a mere three million dollars a year becomes table dust… the state can indeed afford to give it back to three lucky taxpayers. Why not try my idea and see what happens?

In life there are only two sure things: death and taxes. By sharing our wealth through taxes we all experience a greater good… and what’s more good than making all of us more willing to share our wealth? Besides being fun, it might also create a modicum of taxpayer relief… So what do you think?

If you like what you read here, call your legislators and cajole them into taking it from crazy to reality… I’ll do the same, but I can’t do it alone…

P.S. – My coffee klatch voted this idea down because they all consider themselves losers and therefore unlikely to ever have their names drawn. I tried to explain my odds were better than the regular lottery (mine 200,000 to 1 vs. gazillions to 1 for power ball)… but they want the money now. (Per capita, that means their share of the funding this idea would be about $1.50 per year per taxpayer category, or $4.50, if you pay all three taxes). So these four guys would rather get their $4.50 than allow three other fellow North Dakotans become millionaires.

Let the debate begin…