Some Ohio lawmakers want to lower property tax bills but don't agree how to do it
Some Ohioans get a shock when they open their property tax bills, learning they owe thousands more than what they had anticipated.
They have been taking those complaints to state lawmakers, who have come up with ideas they believewill help Ohioans afford to stay in their homes.
But, as with many things at the Ohio Statehouse these days, there's often disagreement on how to solve such concerns.
Some Republican Ohio lawmakers are introducing a new bill aimed at preventing surprise, expensive property tax hikes.
And some GOP legislators are advocating for a flatter income tax in the upcoming two-year state budget.
Lawmakers in the Ohio House also passed a bill to index the Homestead tax to inflation.
Those are some of the proposals. But opponents fear many Ohioans won't get much help through those changes.
State Rep. Adam Bird (R-New Richmond) said high property tax valuations means homeowners are getting hit with huge tax hikes — as much as 43% in some cases.
"Increases that mirrored inflation would be shocking enough. But to go up 43%, and to be dictated to raise them to 43% by an unelected bureaucrat in Columbus, is very concerning and very shocking," Bird said.
Bird and other Republicans are introducing a bill that hasn't been assigned a number or committee yet. It would change the process used by the tax commissioner to conduct property tax billing.
"It requires that this unelected bureaucrat in the tax commissioner's office here in Columbus has to work with county auditors. It says that they must use a three-year average," Bird said.
Bird explained that longer window of review could prevent huge spikes in tax bills, calling it a commonsense approach.
"If we are not going to have common sense, we are going to legislate common sense," he said.
Bird said passage of that bill, along with some tax changes proposed in the upcoming two-year state budget, will help. Those include creating a 2.75% flat income tax and making several property tax changes. And while lawmakers who back those changes said it would help make sure homeowners aren't priced out of their homes, others are skeptical.
Not all lawmakers are on board
Some Democrats said flattening income taxes comes with problems.
The opponents of the flat tax pointed to a legislative fiscal note prepared by the Ohio Legislative Service Commission , the office that researches legislative policy for lawmakers. The commission’s fiscal analysis estimated the bill would bring a $929 million increase in property taxes on homeowners and agriculture property owners, as well as a $538 million loss to schools and local governments. Further, the analysis said those tax changes are estimated to cost schools and local governments more than a $500 million.
Democrats have also opposed flatter taxes, saying they do little to nothing to help the poorest Ohioans. A recent analysis by the liberal leaning think tank, Policy Matters, showed families earning $50,000 a year or less would get little or no tax savings from this approach.
Consensus on some changes
On Wednesday, the Ohio House unanimously passed HB57, a bill that ties property tax valuation with inflation. State Rep. Steve Demetriou (R-Bainbridge Twp.), one of the sponsors of the plan, said it would help Ohioans who are dealing with inflation, adding it is "one of the greatest threats our state and country are facing at the moment."
Democrats went along with the bill, though some said they'd like to see more done. State Rep. Daniel Troy (D-Willowick) called passage of this bill a "small step in the right direction."
"Let's not close the door on this particular issue and keep working to make sure that our senior citizens can afford the burden of property taxes," Troy said.
Troy has sponsored his own legislation (HB 60) he said would provide more targeted tax relief to lower income Ohioans who need it the most. That bill has received some hearings but hasn't made it out of committee.