« ForrigeFortsett »
this period to $610,135,064. That is to say, in forty years the increment of land value in the entire state, as shown by tax assessments, amounted only to $21,190,533! In contrast with this, the equalized value of real estate in 1911, the year of the first quadrennial appraisement, was $1,661,000,000, or 154 per cent larger than the valuation of 1910. The state has now, by the act of May 6, 1913,2 accepted annual appraisements of real estate.
The recommendation for a permanent tax commission was adopted by the act of May 10, 1910, amended May 31, 1911. That body was charged with the administration of the franchise and excise taxes upon corporations, with the assessment of the property of public utilities (formerly assessed by various ex-officio boards), and with the equalization of bank shares and of real estate valuations. In marked contrast with the character of previous state boards of equalization, the commission was constituted a true board of assessment, and not merely a board of equalization, through the injunction to see to it that all property is assessed for taxation at its true value in money. The commission was also given general supervisory power over the assessment of property, with authority to order a reappraisement of the real or personal property in a taxing district, to appoint appraisers for such reappraisements, to reconvene boards of review and equalization, and to raise or lower the assessed valuation of any real or personal property. The law, however, still vested in the auditor of state considerable authority over local assessing officers, mainly incident to his
1 Report of the Tax Commission of Ohio, 1911, p. 25. 2103 Ohio Laws, 786.
4102 Ohio Laws, 224.
101 Ohio Laws, 399.
The term was now much extended as compared with its former definition.
authority to prescribe the form of the tax statement.1 The act of 1913 makes the tax commission unequivocally the head of the assessment machinery of the state.
The act providing for quadrennial appraisement required the publication of pamphlet lists of real estate valuations, giving lot and street numbers or other description, and feet frontage or acreage.3 The act of 1913 requires a quinquennial list, and a list of changes in valuations in intermediate years. The quinquennial lists are required to show separately the valuation of improvements, minerals and mineral rights.1
Other recommendations of the commission have not fared so well at the hands of legislature and people. Complete separation of the sources of state and local revenue has not been achieved, altho there has been but a small state levy since 1902, - not, indeed, for general state purposes, but for common schools, universities and sinking fund. The legislature has taken no action on this recommendation, except as state revenue from special sources has been augmented by increases in the rates of the excise and franchise taxes. The tax commission proposed in 1911 that the county should be made the unit for school purposes, thus dispensing with the state common school levy, and that the sinking and university funds be made a charge on the general revenues, together with any state aid required for common schools in the poorer districts. In case the general revenue fund should prove inadequate for these additional demands upon it, the commission proposed to
1 Section 5366, General Code of 1910.
2103 Ohio Laws, 786.
100 Ohio Laws, 81, amended by 101 Ohio Laws, 7.
103 Ohio Laws, 786, Sections 22 and 23.
• The sinking fund levy provides the interest on the so-called “irreducible debt " of the state, which consists of funds derived from the sale of school and university lands and from special endowments, and received by the state as a perpetual 6 per cent loan. Practically all the interest on this debt is used for educational purposes.
apportion the needed state tax among the counties according to total revenue raised.1
The desirability of separation has occasionally been questioned on the double score of inadequate support of the common schools, and of insignificance of the present levy. The plan of the tax commission would seem to dispose of the first of these objections, while the hard fact that the state levy, tho small, was one of the factors considered by real estate appraisers in 1910 in determining what valuation to place on property, casts doubt on the sufficiency of the second objection. For entirely different reasons, separation is not now a pressing problem in Ohio. The system of centrally appointed county assessors established by the act of 1913 has resulted in more uniform assessments not only within the county, but also throughout the state, through the removal of dependence upon the favor of the local electorate. The power of the tax commission to promulgate rules and regulations for the valuation of property, and to equalize valuations, has also tended to secure greater uniformity. With uniformity secured, separation as a measure of mere tax reform loses much of its importance.*
The proposal to abolish the general property tax is the only recommendation of the commission of 1908 on which adverse action has been taken. At the regular election in that year an amendment which would liberalize the taxation article of the constitution was submitted to the electors and received 339,747 affirma
1 Report, 1911, pp. 38-40.
See, for example, E. L. Bogart, Financial History of Ohio, pp. 253, 254; also American Economic Review, vol. i, p. 515.
Moreover, the state is obligated, under certain conditions, to contribute to the tuition fund of impecunious school districts. Sections 7595, 7596, 7597, General Code of Ohio.
For somewhat similar views as to the effects of centralized tax administration, see T. S. Adams, in First National Conference on State and Local Taxation (1907), pp. 515527; and C. J. Bullock, in Quarterly Journal of Economics, vol. xxiv, pp. 437-458 (May, 1910).
tive votes and 95,867 negative votes; but under the constitutional rule then obtaining, the proposed amendment was declared lost because it had not received a majority of all votes cast at that election. A ceaseless controversy has since waged as to whether those not voting on the proposal can properly be held to have voted "no," or merely failed to vote through ignorance and carelessness.
The next step of the tax reformers was to secure the calling of a constitutional convention, which convened in January, 1912. Because dissatisfaction with the uniform rule of taxation was the principal cause of its calling, the convention was expected to afford some relief from that rigid rule, if not to provide in terms for classification, with low rates upon intangible property. Probably largely because of the prominence of the single taxers in the convention, the proposal to classify property became confused in the minds of many delegates with the single tax, and was therefore opposed. Moreover, the state tax commission strongly advocated the retention and extension of the uniform rule. It should further be remembered that Ohio's well-earned reputation for drastic tax legislation is the direct outgrowth of a very general popular acceptance of the uniform rule; in the words of Chairman Dittey, "the people of this state are wedded to the theory of a general property tax." These considerations afford the explanation of the overwhelming majority by which the convention voted to re-submit the uniform rule, together with a provision for the taxation of bonds of the state or of its political subdivisions issued after January
1 See the addresses of Chairman Dittey entitled: 'Taxation; Proposed Constitutional Changes (Pamphlet, Columbus, 1912); and "Uniform Rule and Tax Limit Legislation in Ohio" (Sixth National Conference on State and Local Taxation, 1912, pp. 215–233). Similar views are expressed in the Annual Report of the Tax Commission of Ohio, 1911, especially pp. 32-38. The writer has reviewed this report
in the American Economic Review, vol. ii, p. 729 (September, 1912).
1, 1913. This proposal was adopted at the special election of September 3, 1912 by a majority of 19,175 in a total vote of 518,903, or about half the total vote in the regular election in November.1
The taxation of municipal bonds promised for a time to become the entering wedge for the revision of the taxation article along more liberal lines. As a result both of financial conditions and of the tax on municipals, issues made early in 1913 found a poor market, and could be sold only on an interest basis varying from onehalf to one per cent above customary rates. That rates did not advance more sharply is due to the improbability that the bonds would actually be taxed.2
The result of the declining price of bonds was a movement in favor of the submission to the people of an amendment exempting all state and municipal bonds from taxation. Advocates of classification seized upon this opportunity to secure a revision of the fundamental rule of taxation. There was no reason to suppose that there had been a change in the attitude of voters on this question, but strong ground for hope of a favorable vote was afforded by the adoption in 1912 of a rule for amending the constitution, whereby an amendment carries if it receives the approval of a majority of those voting on that question. But the path of taxation amendments is not yet smooth, for a proposal to submit to the people an amendment providing for classification was overwhelmingly defeated in the legislature of 1913, while a proposal to exempt public bonds was approved by a large majority, only to be defeated at the polls by a vote of 312,232 to 340,570.3
1 Report of the Secretary of State, 1912, p. 657. The amendment also provided for excise and production taxes and for progressive inheritance and income taxes; but these must be in addition to taxes on property. Constitution, Article XII, Section 2.
2 The average rate of property taxation in the state is about twelve mills on the dollar; in the larger cities it is about fifteen mills.
Report of Secretary of State, 1913, pp. 302, 303.