The Senate General Government Committee today advanced a measure allowing municipalities to increase ad valorem taxes by up to five mills to fund law enforcement and fire protection, upon voter approval.
As the state’s largest general farm organization, Oklahoma Farm Bureau opposed the bill. Though it contains an exemption for agriculture land, the organization believes it has serious implications for the future.
“Farm Bureau members see the writing on the wall with this bill,” said Tom Buchanan, OKFB president. “It exempts ag land today, but for how long? We cannot allow cities and towns to fund themselves on the backs of property owners.”
HB 1374 fundamentally changes the purpose of ad valorem tax in Oklahoma by allowing cities and towns to use the tax for salaries, benefits and equipment for public safety. The tax currently only funds infrastructure and capital projects including schools, libraries, roads and bridges.
Although HB 1374 allows local residents to decide on the tax increase, the bill lowers the threshold for voter approval by requiring only a 50 plus one vote instead of a super majority.
Sen. Larry Boggs, Sen. Nathan Dahm, Sen. Chris Kidd and Sen. Wayne Shaw voted against the bill, as Sen. Stephanie Bice, Sen. Julie Daniels, Sen. Kay Floyd, Sen. David Holt, Sen. Joe Newhouse and Sen. Anastasia Pittman voted for it. The bill now heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee for approval.
Oklahoma Farm Bureau is asking its members to contact state senators and urge a no vote on HB 1374. Use the OKAgPolicy Action Center to contact state senators.