Monday, February 21, 2011

Dank Presses Property Tax Reform Measures

Rep. David Dank
Wednesday’s House Rules Committee votes on two proposed property tax reforms could be the most important of the 2011 legislative session, their sponsor said today.

“Oklahoma is out front on a number of vital reforms this year, but if we fail to address the issue of ad valorem tax reform, we will be sending a message that we are just not serious about restraining the growth of government,” said Rep. David Dank (R-Oklahoma City).

Dank’s two proposed reforms would allow the people to vote on a 2-percent annual cap that would limit future property tax increases and a permanent freeze on property tax levels for seniors over 65 for as long as they own their homes.

“If ever there was a bipartisan issue, this is it,” Dank said. “Despite what some opponents may claim, this is not a tax cut. It would not reduce revenue for schools or counties by a single penny. It is merely tax restraint.”

Dank said one recent study by the Tax Foundation showed that Oklahoma has the eighth-fastest growing property tax levy in the nation.

“The current 5-percent allowable annual increase in ad valorem taxes is the only automatic tax increase on the books,” he said. “Imagine the uproar if income or sales taxes went up 5 percent every year.”

Dank said New Jersey recently imposed a 2-percent property tax cap in a bipartisan agreement between Republican Gov. Chris Christie and Democratic legislators.

Indiana voters approved a 1-percent cap by a hefty 72 percent margin.

“The hardest hit are seniors, who have not seen a cost of living increase in Social Security or most pensions in two years,” he said. “That annual extra 5 percent property tax increase, along with increases in expenses like gasoline, utilities, Medicare premium increases, prescription drugs, insurance premiums and groceries are literally driving many of them from their homes into nursing homes, which wind up costing the taxpayers much more.”

Dank praised legislative leaders and Gov. Mary Fallin for advancing tort, workers’ comp, education and income tax reforms that should make Oklahoma more attractive for business and jobs, but he said a failure to address the property tax issue would negate much of that progress.

“There is no more important reform on our agenda this session,” he said. “I am hopeful that these two vital reforms will be advanced to the floor this week.”

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