Legislators Looking to Tax Senior Citizens in Nursing Homes

North Dakota Legislators are again looking to create a “provider assessment for nursing homes” to pay for services. The latest attempt in SB 2349 to create what is essentially a tax on nursing home patients comes after Governor Doug Burgum offered a 1% inflationary adjustment instead of the necessary 3% in his Executive budget. With the ball now in the hands of the Legislature, instead of adjusting the appropriation in the state budget, some are looking to create a new tax on senior citizens.

Governor Jack Dalrymple offered a similar proposal in his last Executive budget before leaving office. Incoming Governor Doug Burgum declared in a press release he supported the new senior tax. Ultimately, the North Dakota House overwhelmingly defeated the proposal in 2017. ND xPlains covered it from start to defeat during that time.

Let me be clear, I understand the urgency of making sure nursing facilities have the resources necessary to provide the quality of care we expect across the state. Due to questionable budgeting priorities by the Governor and lawmakers over the past few sessions, nursing homes have felt the budgetary pinch and are looking at all options to make sure they are operating on the right side of the ledger. I don’t fault nursing facilities nor their administrators for that.

However, the question is if this new tax scheme is absolutely necessary to fund nursing homes? Personally, I don’t believe so. Rather than taxing nursing home residents, the Legislature should fully fund what is necessary for nursing homes to make up for the budgetary slump and to make them whole going into the next biennium. They can do this by offering a standalone bill – just like the tax bill this article is about – or they can amend the budget for the Department of Human Services.

The choice lawmakers have before them right now seems to be either they transfer state dollars or make senior citizens and their families pay more for their care. What happened to all those pledges of “no new taxes” during the midterm election? It really comes down to priorities. Check back for more on this bill and other funding priorities.