A possible change to property tax laws in Oklahoma was a hot topic Thursday night.
Already passed by the state’s house of representatives, House Bill 1374 would allow cities and municipalities, with a simple majority, to ask residents it they want to raise ad valorem taxes in an effort to help fund city services such as police and fire salaries.
Currently, changes to ad valorem taxes require a super majority. Property tax revenues help fund hard assets, not city services and salaries.
State legislators on hand for the Oklahoma Farm Bureau legislative dinner for Rogers and Mayes counties held at Moore Farms Event Barn in Pryor were in opposition of the bill, which was already passed by the house last month.
Sen. Marty Quinn said the bill originated in response to the state’s budget deficit, but cautioned that better options exist.
“Everybody wants to know where the next revenue source is going to come from,” Quinn said.
Fellow Senators Michael Bergstrom and Wayne Shaw were also in attendance, along with Rep. Tom Gann and field representatives for U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin and Senators Jim Inhofe and James Lankford.
The local legislators each spoke briefly to approximately 70 constituents.
Gann, who voted against HB 1374, said passing the bill would set a bad precedence and give the state an unnecessary source to help with the budget crisis.
“I didn’t go to Oklahoma City to expand government,” Gann said. “I want to decrease it.”
Other possible revenue streams mentioned by the legislators included additional gas or cigarette taxes, reassessing current sales tax exemptions or implementing taxes on wind industry.
Bergstrom said finding additional revenue sources likely are necessary to help bridge the gap in the state’s budget crisis.
“I don’t think we can cut (taxes) all the way to solving the budget deficit,” Bergstrom said.
Thursday also marked the first time Gann had returned to the Moore Farms Event Barn since holding his watch party last November.
“The shock is over with but the awe is still there,” said Gann, the first-term legislator.