Democratic gubernatorial candidate Drew Edmondson backed a proposal Thursday to allow property tax levies for municipal police and fire services and said the state should scrutinize some of the services currently exempt from the sales tax.
In remarks at the Oklahoma Municipal League’s annual conference, held in downtown Oklahoma City, Edmondson said Oklahoma should try more creative ways to ensure online retailers are collecting sales taxes from Oklahoma consumers. He also addressed the constitutional carry issue — whether people 21 and over should be able to carry firearms without a permit or background check.
Edmondson appeared before the group the day after Republican gubernatorial candidate Kevin Stitt and sought to answer the same questions posed to Stitt.
Municipal leaders, who say they are hamstrung by a narrow reliance on sales tax revenue, have been eyeing other funding sources, including property taxes, for basic services. Currently, towns and cities may only use property taxes for capital projects.
Edmondson did not endorse a major expansion of property taxes but said he could get behind allowing property tax levies to fund the salaries of police and firefighters if a city’s residents voted to do so.
“Public safety protection districts — I think that sounds like an excellent idea and I would support that,” he said.
Stitt also expressed support for the proposal when he addressed the group.
Legislation to allow municipalities to seek voter approval to levy property taxes for public safety passed the state House last year but died in the Senate. The Senate bill was authored by former state Sen. David Holt, now the mayor of Oklahoma City.
Like Stitt, Edmondson said he supports the continued use of tax increment finance districts, which allow a city, town or county to use tax money generated by a new development to pay for public improvements in the development area.
Edmondson said the state could broaden the sales tax base by looking at services currently exempt. Gov. Mary Fallin last year proposed taxing a wide range of services currently exempt from the sales tax, but legislators declined to consider it.
Edmondson said, “I think the basis on that should be: Are we an outlier? Are we the only state that does not tax a certain service?
“And if we are an outlier, and every other state is doing it differently, I think we ought to take a cue from that and act appropriately.
Stitt, who has vowed to sign a constitutional carry bill like the one vetoed by Fallin this year, said Wednesday he was open to ensuring the right to carry firearms didn’t interfere with others’ rights.
Edmondson told the group on Thursday that he supports the background checks and training currently required for a concealed carry permit in Oklahoma.
After his remarks, Edmondson told The Oklahomanhe believes state residents have the right under the Second Amendment to carry firearms.
“I also believe that it is reasonable of the state to say that we need to make sure that the people who avail themselves of that right are not on the terrorist watch list, do not have felony convictions or a history of mental illness.
“I would be reluctant to remove those requirements that are currently in the law.”