Policy group: SQ 744 to cost $1.7 billion over 3 years (Tulsa World)

Original at http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=16&articleid=20100721_16_A7_OKLAHO783410

By BARBARA HOBEROCK World Capitol Bureau

OKLAHOMA CITY — A ballot measure that would require per-pupil spending to be increased to that of neighboring states would cost $1.7 billion over three years, according to the Oklahoma Policy Institute.

The increase would be over a three-year phase in from fiscal year 2012 through fiscal year 2014, according to the report released Tuesday.

“This would come at a time when the state is already facing a budget hole of over $1 billion in non-recurring revenues and core services are struggling to recover from two years of reduced funding,” the institute said.

“This situation would necessarily require deeper budget cuts, tax increases or both, even assuming a strong economic turnaround.”

The formula in the measure would give budget decisions to entities outside of the state, the report said.

State Question 744 is among several questions to be put to voters on the Nov. 2 general election ballot. It is backed by the Oklahoma Education Association. It got on the ballot after the circulation of an initiative petition.

David Blatt, executive director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute, said his group is urging Oklahomans to defeat the measure.

But Walton Robinson, communications director for the group Yes on 744, said: “The fact that the OPI board voted to take a political position first should call any of their research into question. Any legitimate think tank would never put backroom deals before policy development.”

The institute’s board discussed the issue and decided to take a position, Blatt said.

“We put out an issue brief making the case,” he said. “We had done preliminary work, and that led the board to decide on a position and strategy for communicating our stance.”

The board is bipartisan and committed to public education as well as other public services, Blatt said.

Robinson called the figures inflated but did not provide a figure he believes is accurate.

Jeff Wilson, campaign manager for One Oklahoma Coalition, which opposes the state question, said the $1.7 billion figure is twice the original estimate offered by those who support the measure.

Wilson said the Yes on 744 campaign should not just respond with “wild accusations about the credibility of the institute’s analyses” but detail where the money would come from or how to finance the proposal.

“It’s a simple question that demands a straight-forward answer,” he said.


Oklahoma Policy Insititute (OK Policy) advances equitable and fiscally responsible policies that expand opportunity for all Oklahomans through non-partisan research, analysis, and advocacy.

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