During the last few days, chances are that you received your property tax bill. I would also guess that this bill reflects a 5% increase in your assessment over last year. This is the time of year when my office receives calls from citizens experiencing the challenge of coming up with a larger than ever property tax payment. Second only to the issue of road improvements, I believe the issue of higher property taxes is the one I hear about the most.
I believe the property tax to be the most unfair form of taxation. This tax punishes a person for simply daring to own something and taxes them over and over again for the same property.
In 2007, I co-authored a bill by Oklahoma City State Representative Guy Liebmann which would have decreased the 5% assessment increase cap to 3% or the increase in the consumer price index, whichever is lower. Liebmann's bill passed in the House but, unfortunately, has been held up in the Senate. It is my hope that the Senate will take action on the bill this year, as it is clear that people are getting more and more frustrated with the increases they are experiencing. As property taxes continue to rise, more citizens are being priced into buying a house beneath what they could otherwise afford. Others are faced with the dilemma of whether to sell their property or pay the high tax rate. The challenges faced by individuals with fixed incomes is forcing the legislature to make exceptions to the number of people who have to pay increased rates. These exceptions place the burden of paying property tax onto a shrinking base of property owners.
While the average property tax bill has shot skyward, the homestead exemption which allows homeowners to pay a lower bill has not increased over the years. Logan County Commissioner Mark Sharpton has requested that I propose legislation which would increase homestead exemption. I also plan to propose indexing homestead exemption to the consumer price index so that over time, the exemption will continue to grow with inflation.
The passage of these two pieces of legislation would be a good start to slowing the increase of property taxes. However, in order to have true reform and property tax reduction, we must address the problem at its source. Approximately 85% of property taxes go to Oklahoma's education system. This money is in addition to the approximate amount of 3.5 billion dollars that we appropriate for common and higher ed. A report by the Oklahoma Council on Public Affairs demonstrates that Oklahoma taxpayers probably spend about $12,000 per year for each student we educate.
Oklahoma should offer a $4,000 tax credit to those parents who choose to educate their children in the private sector where they can receive a more cost-effective education. This would empower parents with the ability to determine where their children receive an education (one of the most important choices a parent will make) and would save taxpayers about two-thirds of the cost we are now paying. This common sense move would allow for dramatic reduction in property taxation and significantly shrink the size of state government. Smaller state government means the government will have less influence over our lives, an important value I believe most Oklahomans share. This is one of the reforms I am committed to supporting as your State Representative.