An Op-Ed by Jeramy Rich, Oklahoma Farming and Ranching Foundation president
Oklahoma legislators face tough decisions as they work to fund services at current levels in this season of declining revenues. While it is important to address current needs, we must also be mindful of long-term solutions for a better Oklahoma. We need carefully crafted solutions rather than band-aids to get us by in the short term.
Providing economic opportunity for all families is a cornerstone for so many of our state’s critical needs – healthcare, public safety, education and core infrastructure just to name a few. Funding those services requires a balance of revenue sources that should be shared by all users.
In Oklahoma, ad valorem taxes have historically been used to fund county government services like roads, bridges, courthouse functions and local public school infrastructure and instruction. Property owners provide the major source of funding for all users of these services – including non-property owners. Funding additional services, like public safety, with these ad valorem tax funds would require either raising property taxes or cutting existing services – neither of which is a good solution.
In a recent survey, sixty-percent of Oklahoma voters polled indicated they would not support additional property taxes to fund current services at the county or municipal level. Furthermore, nearly forty-percent of those polled believe their current property taxes are too high.
Clearly, the solutions are not easy. But, placing the additional tax burden on personal property is both unpopular and unfair. I am confident we can come up with a better alternative.