Gann Bill Would Require Vote of the People to Redirect Property Taxes to TIF Districts
OKLAHOMA CITY – Rep. Tom Gann, R-Inola, has filed House Bill 1379, which would require a vote by citizens to redirect property tax through Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) Districts. Gann explained that in Mayes County, Mid-America Industrial Park (MAIP) officers proposed redirecting county property tax through the implementation of a TIF district to benefit new corporations coming into the industrial park. MAIP was established to operate and develop the industrial park property using funds generated by revenues from a water plant, waste treatment plant, and the sale or lease of authority properties and interest earned on investments, he said. The Mayes County commissioners appointed a review committee tasked with determining whether the TIF District proposal should proceed or not. The committee voted to form the TIF District, with one dissenting vote. County commissioners then voted 2-1, to affirm the decision. "The process I personally observed was not one where balanced information was provided on whether a TIF District was a viable proposition for economic growth," Gann said. "I saw a process of one-sided information, using sales techniques to promote the proposal." Gann was told by some local citizens that they wanted to know what the new industries would be. "The answers they were given were vague and they were told the information couldn’t be revealed because it was part of a non-disclosure agreement. This caused further frustration and more questions about the creation of a TIF district." The citizens of Mayes County consequently came together and set out to challenge the proposal and bring it to a vote of the people. After a costly legal battle with MAIP officials, the group’s petition was placed on the ballot in November 2022. The citizens of Mayes County voted the TIF District down in every precinct in the county with the overall vote against at 63.9%. "House Bill 1379 will put the power back into the hands of citizens by requiring a TIF District proposal to go to a vote of the people for approval," Gann said. "It will eliminate the costly legal battle against government imposing a TIF District without the consent of the governed." Gann said Thomas Sowell said it well: “It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong.” Gann said it is the citizens who pay taxes and are the ones who pay the price, and they are the winners or losers when big proposals affect their property tax base.