2012 State Questions – Summary and Analysis

On November 6, 2012, Oklahoma voters will decide six state questions to amend the State Constitution. Two of the questions involve property taxes, with the other questions addressing affirmative action, DHS governance, parole decisions, and bonding authority. OK Policy’s summary and analysis of each question is listed below. You can download a fact sheet with this analysis here and a fact sheet with the ballot language for each state question here. For links to more information, go to our 2012 State Questions page.

SQ 758

What it would do: Reduce the cap on the maximum annual tax valuation increase for homestead properties and agricultural land from 5 percent to 3 percent.

Our analysis: Lowering the allowable increase in property valuations helps only those whose property values are increasing quickly enough to exceed the cap. Oklahomans living in poor communities, rural areas, and small towns would get little to no benefit, since their homes values will not increase nearly as much as homes in wealthy, suburban communities. Meanwhile, everyone could end up paying higher rates to meet fixed expenses that are funded with property taxes, such as school bond payments.

Related blog posts: 

SQ 759

What it would do: Ban affirmative action in state employment, education, and contracting.

Our analysis: Supporters of SQ 759 oppose practices that are already illegal in Oklahoma or never existed in the first place. Public hiring quotas and contract preferences have been illegal in Oklahoma since the early 1980s. SQ 759 would make illegal in the public sector practices that are voluntarily and widely adopted by the private sector by companies that understand the value of inclusion and diversity for any successful organization.

Related blog posts:

SQ 762

What it would do: Remove the governor from the parole process for less serious, non-violent offenses.

Our analysis: Oklahoma is the only state in the nation where the governor must personally approve every parole, and Oklahoma’s parole rates have tended to be far lower than most other states. Well-managed probation and parole systems have been shown to reduce crime and recidivism. Parole offers those released from prison an intermediate period to rebuild their lives, where they can be monitored and assisted to find a job, obtain a degree, and stay out of trouble, at a fraction of the cost of incarceration.

Related blog posts:

SQ 764

What it would do: Create a $300M bonding authority for the Oklahoma Water Resource Board (OWRB) in the case of water and sewage treatment loan defaults.

Our analysis: The OWRB is already constitutionally authorized to purchase and issue bonds, and SQ764 does not change this. The new fund would be drafted only if an Oklahoma municipality or city defaulted on a loan and only if all other OWRB reserve funds had been depleted (a scenario that has never occurred in the 27 years since the inception of OWRB’s financial assistance program). Reinforcing OWRB’s loan programs is important for small Oklahoma towns that do not have the capital to fund water infrastructure projects on their own.

Related blog posts:

SQ 765

What it would do: Eliminate the commission overseeing the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) and transfer its powers to the Legislature and Governor.

Our analysis: Ambiguities in the legislation and ballot title language make it appear as if DHS itself could be abolished if voters approve SQ 765. Meanwhile, the Legislature’s decision to repeal the constitutional provision that created DHS without replacing it with specific statutory language recreating the Department leaves some doubt about the Department’s status should SQ 765 pass.

Related blog posts:

SQ 766

What it would do: Exempt corporations’ intangible property from property taxes.

Our analysis: SQ 766 would provide a large tax cut to centrally-assessed corporations, such as utilities, airlines, railroads, and telecommunications companies. It would cost local governments an estimated $50 million in property tax revenue, 60 percent of which goes to schools. For budget items that cannot be cut, such as bond issues and legal judgments, local assessors will have to increase property tax rates to offset lost revenue. As a result, most homeowners and small businesses could see their property taxes go up. The failure of SQ 766 would not mean a significant tax increase for business, because the Legislature has already created a $25 Business Activity Tax (BAT) as a “tax in lieu of” intangible personal property tax. This tax will continue if SQ 766 fails.

Related blog posts:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gene Perry joined OK Policy in January 2011. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism. Gene also serves on the board of the Oklahoma Sustainability Network, is a trustee of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, is a member of Investigative Reporters and Editors, and has chaired the communications advisory committee for the State Priorities Partnership, a nationwide network of state fiscal policy think tanks. He lives in Tulsa with his wife Kara Joy McKee, who is a Tulsa City Councilor.

24 thoughts on “2012 State Questions – Summary and Analysis

    1. Be sure to understand the questions! Voting NO on SQ758 would be saying you WANT to keep the tax at 5% instead of 3%! Voting NO on SQ759 is saying you want employers to “profile” or use “quotas” in hiring. Voting NO on SQ762 means you want the Gov involved in paroling non-violent crimes. Voting NO on SQ764 is hurting all Oklahomans, every expert no matter what side of political aisle agree that water is the #1 issue this state will face in the next 30-50 yrs, this SQ addresses that in a positive manner. Voting NO on SQ765-if you think DHS has been run correctly the past 50 yrs then vote NO, this is the only board that is not appointed, our DHS system needs a major overhaul! Voting NO on SQ766 means increases in EVERY Oklahomans taxes significantly no matter what you do, say, talk, eat or look-like….VOTE YES for no double-taxation! People really need to understand these questions! My opinion is VOTE YES on ALL these questions! They are not party affiliated!

      1. If you vote yes you will be hurting educational funds. I think educational funds are more important than you may know. Why don’t you look into the finances of your school district and see how bad voting taxes will HURT them and the education of children that are this states future. Maybe you should think of others and not yourself.

      2. Voting YES on 766 will cost the schools in OK $30 million plus…please make sure your legislators have the courage to give the schools BACK these funds if this passes. Schools cannot afford any cuts, let alone $30 million.

      3. Gayle, no on SQ759 is NOT saying you want quotas or profiles used. That practice is actually already illegal in OK.

        Take your own words to heart and be sure you understand what you are voting on.

      4. In reference to SQ765
        Read up on HB 1373.
        http://www.oklegislature.gov/BillInfo.aspx?Bill=HB3137
        HB3137, which was just ratified will be removed before it can even start ( It is enacted on the 7th of November. )

        That is a HB that includes boards for different areas that require 5 man groups that are appointed.

        I don’t know if that is a good or bad thing. But I wonder if the Gist of the State Question is that the Legislation doesn’t like that part and want a do over.

      5. So if I vote no on 758 I’m saying I want the cap to stay at 5% and education funding won’t be hurt…. Correct? If I vote yes then the cap changes to 3% and part of the education funding will be cut? Thanks for the help.

  1. So where was this “intangible property” tax originated? How did it get into law in the first place? Is it actually assessed right now? My profession is saying to vote yes because it could assess licenses, client lists etc. Is this true and if so when will it because it hasn’t yet?

    1. It is already taxed right now. Southwestern Bell has been the driving force behind this question. The state legislators have already put a law into place that if this fails (you vote no) then there will be NO NEW TAXES assessed. So, if you haven’t had your licenses and client lists taxed in the past they will NOT all of a sudden be taxed if this fails. It is simply a misdirection that the corporations are putting out there to make sure their interests are served. It it does pass then your property taxes will increase.

      1. Actually, my understanding is that originally only communication type co. (like SW Bell) were taxed with the original law and then AT&T filed a law suit saying this is unfair that only a few co. are being taxed and the OK Supreme Court ruled in their favor. So for next year all businesses will be taxed for intangible property taxes. My business too is pushing to vote “yes” because it will be taxed on patient lists, contracts, etc. I’m never in favor of taking funding away from the schools but I’m wondering how in the world this legislation will be carried out and how the taxation amounts will be determined if passed… just my two cents…

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  3. Same old politics. It’s a sad state of affairs when a person cannot determine if “YES” means “do I want it to pass or do I wnat it to fail”
    State law requires that all tax issues be voted on by the public; so I guess it requires some political manuevering to con the public into providing the {right} answer.

  4. Why can’t our state leaders put these state question in a language we can understand?put it in a so the people who are voting can understand.

      1. Ben is right. Knowing that people say they will just vote NO on all the questions the bill is written with such ambiguity that a No vote gets their desired response. More government control

  5. It all looks like opportunities for wealthy people to get out of paying taxes. And Mattress Mary was for parole until it occurred to her it would relieve her of some of her power. So basically NO on everything but YES on Parole.

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