Bill Drafted in Oregon

Jeffery Smith


[Reprinted from GroundSwell, March-April 2007]


Jeffery Smith, president of the Forum on Geonomics, continues to raise awareness among legislators in Oregon, a state that has adopted term-limits and thus has rapid turnover of elected officials. He reports that as did three of the most recent four sessions, 2007 also had a text for their consideration.

Rep. Kevin Cameron of Salem allowed us to present our text to Legislative Council, whose job it is to put bills into legal language, but failed to own the bill when it came back from LC as the Public Investment Recovery Act (PIRA), LC #3478. The bill came back to us the same day as a new self-imposed deadline for getting numbers for bills, so we had no time to replace Cameron as our sponsor (besides Smith was out-of-town at the Eastern Economic Conference in New York City). Even a new enthusiast for geonomics, rural Republican lawmaker John Dallum, backed away from the bill that its original sponsor had abandoned, unsure of why Cameron got cold feet. Hence the bill lies somewhere in legal limbo.

The property tax shift's only chance now is to become incorporated into a new bill. There is a candidate bill for amendment, HJR 45, which would left the lid on the property tax. We're asking that legislators lift the lid on the land half of property only.

The Public Investment Recovery Act said in its introduction:

"The state and local governments are obligated to pay for roads, schools, public safety, water and sewer systems, and other public services. These public investments increase the locational value of land. This act allows government to recover a portion of increases in land values attributable to public investment."

Text of the PIRA bill is as follows:

Government may shift the present property tax off buildings and improvements onto the true market value of land, partially or completely, as long as four conditions are met:

  1. a majority of the voters in the initiating jurisdiction approve the proposed shift of taxes;
  2. the proposed levy exempts the value of buildings and other improvements, totally or partially;
  3. the revenue raised annually from a parcel of land is kept lower than the annual rental value of the location; and
  4. the jurisdiction levying the land tax pays a dividend from the raised revenue to the registered voters in that jurisdiction; the amount of the dividend must be at least ninety percent of the land levy paid by the most heavily taxed landowner in the bottom quintile of landowners in the jurisdiction.

Government may bill landowners and pay residents a dividend each month instead of each year.

Government may shift from taxing both land and buildings to taxing land alone in one year or phase in the shift over at most five years.

Qualified landowners may claim a deferment from the levy on land for up to ten years or until sale of the land.

Landowners qualify by:

  • (a) being at least sixty-five years old; or
  • (b) being in the bottom quintile of landowners; or by
  • (c) being liable for a land tax that is at least twenty percent greater than their most recent property tax.

At the end of the deferment, the levying jurisdiction is allowed to recover past due land taxes.

Landowners receiving deferments no longer qualify for receiving a dividend from recovered locational values.

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