| January 12, 2012
No property-tax increase necessary (Part 2)
I recently addressed the scare tactic used by our friends on the left and various tax users who claim that “property taxes will increase” if the state phases out its personal income tax. We have recently received great feedback regarding this subject. One correspondent wrote to me and asked: “On point three, doesn't it naturally follow that the county assessor will reevaluate properties in order to make up the difference – if a determination is made to ‘raise taxes’ and the citizens don't approve the measure?”
This is a very good question. The answer is that it is possible that some county assessors may attempt what this reader fears, but major barriers prohibit them from taking such an action.
First, each county has a dispute process wherein a property owner can challenge the new market and assessed values made by the county assessor, so an unfounded increase in property values would likely be overturned during this process. This happens regularly throughout the state, and I have even used it personally.
Second, based on the formulas for assessing and determining property values and taxes, it would be impossible for a county assessor to “shake down” just one or even several property owners to collect enough of the additional taxes they “think” they “need.” In other words, in order to arbitrarily reevaluate property values, many property owners would be unjustly assessed, likely resulting in significant public backlash. Either the county assessor would change his ways or he would suffer the natural consequences of bad (and possibly illegal) policy: being recalled in an election by his constituents, removed for criminal penalties of falsifying statements regarding property values, or he losing in the next general election.
Third, the Oklahoma constitution limits to 5 percent the possible increase in assessed values by a county assessor. Attentive voters would likely remove such an assessor for violating this blatantly clear protection in the constitution.
You don’t have to raise taxes in order to cut taxes. The evidence is clear: It is not necessary to raise property taxes in order to phase out the state’s personal income tax. If government eliminates waste, inefficiencies, and non-core spending of $300 million to $400 million (i.e., 6 percent of appropriations), Oklahoma can phase out its income tax without harming any core services.
The weeping and wailing of the Left and the various tax users will continue, but that is to be expected from those who have an insatiable appetite to spend more and more of someone else’s hard-earned money.