Sunday, November 23, 2008

Moving Ahead with Property Tax Reform

I am happy to report some fantastic news about one of the most needed reforms. Last week the window of time opened when Representatives can file new legislation to be heard during the upcoming session. Those who wish to make a point and provide their legislation with one of the initial House bill numbers are using this as an opportunity to make a strong statement by quickly placing their bills on file.

One of the first bills to be filed was House Joint Resolution 1001. HJR 1001 will be a proposal by Oklahoma City State Representative David Dank. Dank has been one of the leading proponents of one of the most important issues to my constituents. The issue is that of property tax reform. Each year I receive a number of constituent calls protesting the punitive and unfair nature of the ever-increasing property tax assessments that seem to always go up by about 5% with each new issuance.

In 2007, I had to report that while the property tax reform bill had passed the House, it had been killed in the Senate. In 2008, the property tax reform bill was approved in the Senate, but died in the House.

Now, Dank is upping the ante. The proposals of previous years purported to cut the ability of the county assessors to increase property taxes from 5% to 3%. This year, HJR 1001 will attempt to lower the assessment cap to 2%.

With new leadership in place in the State Senate and more reform-minded Representatives in the State House, I believe this is the year that Dank's proposal will be successful. Because the reform will require a change in the State Constitution, it will not be sent to the Governor but will instead require the approval of a vote of the people. Dank has indicated that he will contribute a significant amount to fund the campaign to make sure the word gets out to the people prior to the election.

I suspect the measure will have very little trouble passing a test at the polls. During the last legislative session, I included this issue on my constituent survey and the idea had the support of an overwhelming margin of voters.

This year, I will once again look for the opportunity to propose a plan requested by Logan County Commissioner Mark Sharpton. The proposal was approved by the House of Representatives as an amendment to SB 1956 during last year's session, but was later removed in the conference committee process. Had it been successful, it would have indexed each homeowner's homestead exemption to the rate of inflation. Inflation and the rate of property tax assessments have gone up for years, but the homestead exemption has stayed the same. Sharpton's plan would provide additional property tax relief because it would allow the exemption to grow as well.

As your Representative, I have heard your calls for immediate property tax reform. I take that desire very seriously and am happy to support these proposals.

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