Senator Reynolds seeks grass roots help to press for cap

By Patrick B. McGuigan

Published: 27-Apr-2010

State Senator Jim Reynolds has asked for help from voters and citizens to gain a floor vote for Senate Joint Resolution 5, the property tax cap he has pressed in recent years.

In a Capitol press conference, Reynolds, a Republican, told reporters, “The full Senate approved this measure over a year ago, but we’re still waiting for the House to take action. This issue remains a top concern, not just in my district, but in communities throughout the state.”

Reynolds gained the support of 26 Republicans and three Democrats for his proposal, which as a constitutional amendment would require voter approval to take effect.

Sen. Reynolds said he believes, “The voters deserve the opportunity to decide this issue for themselves.” He called on House Speaker Chris Benge, a Tulsa Republican, to allow the measure to get a full House vote and move to the ballot.

Reynolds asserted, “One man stands in the way of this going to the people.”  Saying “I do not question the speaker’s motives,” he asked voters to phone the House switchboard and ask the Speaker to schedule a vote. According to Reynolds, those who have asked Benge to permit the issue to advance include Oklahoma County Commissioner Brian Maughan, President Pro Tem Glenn Coffee and state Rep. David Dank, also an Oklahoma City Republican.

In 1996, voters approved a constitutional proposal to limit property tax value assessments to 5% annual increases. In essence, Reynolds and Maughan said, the 5% figure has become a guaranteed annual hike, rather than a top end limit on possible increases. He said that the 5% acceleration every year assures that taxes double every 14.4 years.

Maughan said that property tax increases are “the number one complaint or concern I hear from county constituents.”

Reynolds said 16 other states have stronger protections than Oklahoma for property owners. He countered questions from reporters about the state’s current revenue crunch by observing, “We probably need to take a look at the overall tax structure, but if you say property taxes are ‘low,’ you have to also recognize that property values are also low, and the tax burden is a challenge in that framework. …  If this passes property owners will hold their own, and won’t be losing ground as they have for the past 20 years.”

Senator Reynolds said that overwhelming support for the proposal means it will stand out in the minds of voters, despite the crowded ballot that is emerging for November, when 10 to 12 propositions could be on the statewide ballot.