Oklahoma state ballot questions 758, 759, 762, 764, 765 and 766 passed

Oklahoma voters approved all six state questions Tuesday at the polls.

State Questions 758, 759, 762, 765 and 766 ranged from the merits of affirmative action to corporate tax exemptions.

Below are the six questions and the arguments for each.

STATE QUESTION 758 -- Passed

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.

Arguments for:

  • Only affects agricultural land and homestead properties.
  • The cap would free up more home and farm budget dollars for other expenses.
  • A lower assessment cap would help property owners whose market values are rising rapidly while shifting the tax burden to taxpayers whose property values are not rising, more equitably spreading the tax burden.
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Arguments against:

  • The revenue could be made up by valuation adjustments in other types of property.
  • Hardest hit would be public education, to which 65% of ad valorem taxes are dedicated.
  • The lower cap may require some districts to pass new bond issues to make up the funding shortfall, which would raise taxes (millage rate).
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STATE QUESTION 759 -- Passed

What it would do:  Ban preferential treatment (affirmative action) based on race, color, gender, ethnicity or national origin in state and municipal employment, education, and contracting.

Arguments for:

  • Prevents reverse discrimination and requires hiring, contracting, and admissions to be based on merit and qualifications.
  • Exceptional provisions in place when gender is a bona fide qualification, when affirmative action practices are required to maintain or secure federal funds, and when existing court orders and consent decrees mandate preferred treatment.
  • Preferential treatment based on gender or ethnicity undermines the notion of a truly color-blind society; government-mandated diversity necessarily results in discriminatory practices.
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Arguments against:

  • SQ 759 threatens to a range of targeted programs that most voters may not associate with "discrimination" and "preferences" at all: science and technology programs for girls, higher education funding for minority health professionals, review systems designed to monitor and address discrimination, domestic violence programs, etc.
  • In states that have passed bans on affirmative action, minorities and women were less likely to advance to managerial positions, a reduction for hiring women went from 52 percent to 13 percent, construction awards to businesses owned by minorities and women decreased from 50 percent to 32 percent, and admission of women and minorities to elite and grad schools dropped.
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STATE QUESTION 762 -- Passed

What it would do: Remove the governor from the parole process for less serious, non-violent offenses.
* Fallin originally supported the SQ, but changed her position and is now against the idea

Arguments for:

  • Measure would allow the governor to focus more time on reviewing paroles for violent offenses by removing the governor from the process for those convicted of nonviolent offenses.
  • The governor's involvement in the parole process for nonviolent offenses is inefficient and expensive. Oklahoma is the only state in the nation where the governor must personally approve every parole.
  • Oklahoma prisons are at about 99% capacity. With limited space and funding, the focus should be on ensuring space is available for violent offenders who need to be in prison.
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Arguments against:

  • Members of the pardon and parole board are unelected, thus not as directly accountable to the citizens of Oklahoma.
  • Recent controversy over alleged "secret dockets" for violent inmates being considered for early parole has called into question the board's commuting process and communication with the public.

STATE QUESTION 764 -- Passed

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

Arguments for:

  • Creates a new fund for the OWRB to increase its leveraging capacity, by providing low interest loans to local governments for water and sewer improvements.
  • If the measure fails, the agency's Financial Assistance Program for cities/towns would be reduced to funding only 5 to 10 percent of infrastructure needs over the next 50 years.
  • If the measure fails, water and sewer rates would increase because local governments would have to go to other, more expensive sources for capital improvement funding.
  • There has not been a loan default in the 30 years of the current program.

Arguments against:

  • Oklahoma does not need to incur additional public debt.
  • If passed, this measure would put the Legislature in a position of committing to repay up to an estimated $25 million to cover defaulted loans.
  • Non-governmental funding sources, even those with higher interest rates, may be more stable in the future.

STATE QUESTION

765 -- Passed

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

Arguments for:

  • The current DHS oversight system is out of date. Asking volunteer individuals to oversee four distinct areas: Oklahoma's indigent, aging, and disabled populations along with family and children services, requires a group of individuals to have a broad knowledge base.
  • Would shift the power to care for the affected individuals from the executive branch of government to the legislative branch.
  • Allows the Legislature to almost start from scratch to restructure the agency.

Arguments against:

  • Despite recent events, the current DHS system is not so broken as to require such
    drastic measures.
  • If passed, the measure would put the power back in the hands of the Legislature, possibly making the system even more unstable.
  • There is no mechanism to serve the affected populations while a new structure is being debated and created during future legislative sessions?

STATE QUESTION 766 -- Passed

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

Arguments for:

  • If the question does not pass, hunting leases, unused mineral rights, insurance policies, customer lists, computer software, and even patents and inventions would all be subject to taxation.
  • This would ensure that Oklahoma is poised for future jobs, investment, and economic growth. Almost no other state taxes this type of property.
  • A 2009 Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling requires county assessors to find intangibles to tax even on small businesses.

Arguments against:

  • The lost revenue may be made up by valuation adjustments in other types of property, or new taxes.
  • Worst case scenario would be a $50 million loss of revenue across the state for education which generally receives 65% of ad valorem tax revenues, and other county services.

Find more election coverage on our Democracy 2012 page at www.kjrh.com/elections .

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