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Some legislators want instant rebate to North Dakota taxpayers

BISMARCK - The surest, fairest way to give the state's surplus back to the taxpayers is an income tax rebate sent out as soon as possible, a Fargo legislator said.

But other legislators said at a hearing Monday that the voters sent a message in November that they don't want an income tax cut.

Rep. Rick Berg, R-Fargo, has introduced House Bill 1324, which would return $100 million of the estimated $1 billion state surplus via tax rebates based on taxpayers' 2008 state income tax returns (2007 income).

The $100 total is the same amount of income tax relief Gov. John Hoeven has proposed, but Hoeven's plan reduces what taxpayers will pay in over the next two years, Berg said.

Berg said his bill "embraces the governor's plan for reducing the personal income tax, but rather than delay the breaks, provides an immediate economic stimulus."

Because Hoeven's tax break is already written into the proposed state budget for 2009-11, Berg said, his bill will not cost the state any money that hasn't already been planned.

"This bill says, 'Hey North Dakota taxpayers, you overpaid. Here's one-third of your tax dollars back,' " he said.

But Rep. Lonnie Winrich, D-Grand Forks, said that voters indicated when they defeated Measure 2 last November and that last spring when the nation's taxpayers got "stimulus" checks from the federal government, many of the spent the money paying down debt, spending it on things that stimulated the economy.

But Berg said his suggested rebates would go to people who are "growing the economy." Recipients are not going to use their checks to buy boats, he said; they will plow the money back into their businesses, which benefits the whole state.