House Joint Resolution #1047 (HJR#1047) is authored by Rep. Robert Manger (R-OKC) and Rep. Tammy Townley (R-Ardmore) in the House and Sen. Adam Pugh (R-Edmond) in the Senate.

HJR#1047 would send to a vote of the people a proposal which includes freezing the value of a homestead for individual head of households who are sixty-five (65) years of age or older to not exceed the fair cash value placed upon the property during the first year in which the individual head of household turns sixty-five years of age or older.

It would remove the current maximum income requirement for a senior valuation freeze and make all seniors over 65 eligible. HJR #1047 unanimously passed the House Rules committee last month.

Critics of the bill, which include the County Assessors Association of Oklahoma, believe HJR #1047 would give an unnecessary tax break to wealthy seniors. Proponents of the bill believe it would help many seniors on a fixed income who need the financial help.

Three observations:

First, HJR #1047 is revenue neutral. That means it wouldn’t cost taxpayers anything. HJR#1047 doesn’t ‘eliminate’ property tax for those over 65. It simply freezes the value of the homestead. Seniors would still pay taxes on their homes, including increases in the millage rate in their school district. Most senior’s homes are already assessed at fair market value, so the only loss of tax revenue would be on the future increases.

Second, the current senior valuation freezing criteria is flawed. The freeze is based on gross household income, which means a rancher counts the income from selling livestock, but not the expenses to raise the livestock. The current system counts all income except veterans’ disability or a gift. It includes income from food stamps, disability, and non-taxable income. The maximum allowable income to be eligible for the freeze varies from county to county and increases each year. Filing for the freeze ends March 15th. If you have questions on your eligibility, contact your county assessor’s office before 3/15.

Third, most seniors need the financial help. Some wealthy Oklahoma seniors don’t need the freeze, but the vast majority of seniors in the Sooner state aren’t wealthy. They are on a fixed income and struggle to pay their bills.

The Oklahoma Board of Equalization certified $10.49 billion with $9.1 billion available for the 2022 legislature to appropriate ($1.3 billion is carryover from last year). Ten years ago (2012), the Oklahoma state budget was $6.8 billion. In one decade, the state budget has increased over 25%.

Whenever there is a strong budget in Oklahoma, a plethora of state agencies line up to advocate for increases in funding. State employees line up for raises. But the average Oklahoma taxpayer rarely gets a break.

HJR#1047 would be a godsend to many seniors raising their grandchildren and struggling to pay property insurance and maintain their homes. The truth is – it isn’t a tax cut at all. HJR #1047 would just put county government on a fixed income like the seniors. What’s good for the goose is good for gander. Contact your state legislator and urge them to support passage of HJR#1047.

Steve Fair is Chairman of the 4th district of the Oklahoma Republican Party. He can be reached by email at steve.fair@ymail.com. His blog is stevefair.blogspot.com.

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