By Madi Alexander, Web Editor
Voters will make more than one important decision in the upcoming election. In addition to determining the next president, Oklahomans will vote on six state questions on the November ballot.
State questions often are convoluted and make no sense to the average voter, including me. I know nothing about water bonds or intangible property taxes.
The Oklahoma Policy Institute, a non-profit group dedicated to promoting responsible and sustainable fiscal and economic policies, compiled a less wordy summary and analysis of the state questions. Even then, it took me an unfortunate amount of time to figure out exactly what the ballot measures would change.
Here is a list of my perspectives on this year’s state questions:
• SQ 758
It puts an artificially low cap on how much a person’s property can be valued for tax purposes. The measure benefits wealthy neighborhoods, where property values increase quickly, and puts rural properties at a disadvantage, where values do not rise as fast. Lowering the cap also means lowering the amount that can be taxed, which decreases the revenue used to fund public education.
• SQ 759
This question, if passed, would ban affirmative action, which is not at all the same as a quota system. Quotas and contract preferences are already illegal. SQ 759 would ban the public sector from the same practices that are widely used in the private sector to ensure diversity in the workforce.
• SQ 762
If passed, the governor would be removed from the parole process for non-violent, less severe offenses. Oklahoma is the only state in which the governor must approve all parole requests and rates are drastically lower than most other states. Well-maintained parole systems are cheaper than incarceration, are shown to reduce crime and recidivism and provide for supervised reintegration into society.
• SQ 764
Approving this question creates a $300 million bonding authority in the case of water and sewage treatment loan defaults. While the Oklahoma Water Resources Board can already issue bonds, it is important to reinforce OWRB’s loan programs for small Oklahoma towns that lack the capital to fund water projects on their own.
• SQ 765
The oversight of the Department of Human Services would be given to the Legislature and the Governor, if passed. The language of this measure is ambiguous and appears to abolish DHS altogether. Between the ambiguous language and lack of a statute to recreate the DHS, this puts the status of the department in a dangerous position.
• SQ 766
This question entails tax exemptions for intangible property. It gives tax cuts to corporations and could cost local governments an estimated $50 million in revenue, of which 60 percent goes to education. Without this revenue, assessors will increase property taxes for homeowners and small businesses to compensate.
For more information, go to okpolicy.org.