Amendment to Exempt Farm and Ranch Land

from Proposed Property Tax Increase Fails

OKLAHOMA CITY–(March 12, 2007) — A proposal that could have saved Oklahoma farmers and ranchers thousands in increased property taxes failed late yesterday afternoon, said the House Democratic Caucus Chairman, Rep. Ryan McMullen.

The amendment, by state Rep. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, would have exempted Oklahoma 's farm and ranch land from the possible property tax increase found in House Joint Resolution 1014.

HJR 1014 would place a state question on the November ballot that would amend the state Constitution to remove the three mill maximum that county commissioners could levy to fund emergency medical service districts. The measure would also remove the requirement that emergency medical districts follow school district boundary lines.

Currently 49 of the state's 77 counties have EMS districts. The average levy is 2.9 mills, which generates about $10.3 million statewide-an average revenue of approximately $210,000 for each county.

McMullen, a rural volunteer firefighter, said he understands the need to fund rural ambulance districts, but said we could have done it in such a way that would not have hurt Oklahoma 's struggling agricultural industry.

“ Oklahoma 's farmers and ranchers have recently faced increased costs, decreased commodity prices, drought, flood, fire, and ice,” said McMullen. “Sometimes it makes you wonder what else the world can possibly throw at people struggling to make a living on the farm.”

“I certainly want to find ways to better fund our emergency responders and firefighters, but not on the backs of hardworking farmers and ranchers,” said McMullen, D-Burns Flat. “In recent years Oklahoma 's been blessed with a growing economy and growing revenues. The State of Oklahoma has the dollars to support our emergency responders and volunteer firefighters without resorting to a property tax increase,” said McMullen.

The Democrat's amendment would have prevented the maximum millage levy on agriculture land from being increased above the current maximum. The amendment was defeated down a straight party line vote of 39-38.

“Limiting property taxes on Oklahoma 's farmers and ranchers is not a partisan issue,” said McMullen. “I certainly hope House Republicans will have a change of heart, join with House Democrats, and let us reconsider the bill and amendment.”

HJR 1014 passed by a vote of 60-36 and without a move to reconsider the bill will head to the Senate for consideration.