At a glance: State ballot questions

October 9, 2012

Six proposed state questions will appear on the ballot this November. To help voters come to informed conclusions about these questions, OCPA has compiled the following voters' guide.

State Question No. 758

Summary: This measure would limit the potential for some property tax increases by capping increases to the appraised "fair cash value" of a property at 3 percent of market value for some properties.

What's at stake: From a free-market, limited-government perspective, specifying and limiting potential increases in the fair cash value of a property -- which determines property taxes -- enables property owners to better budget taxes in advance and know how much money they will have left for spending, saving and investing in the private sector -- and that's all a positive. It's important to note, though, that this is not specifically a measure to lower property taxes; again, it's a measure to limit increases to the appraised market value of a property, which determines property taxes.

Still want more information? Click here.

State Question No. 759

Summary: This measure prohibits preferential treatment or discrimination based on race and other classifications in education, employment and contracting except when (1) gender is a bonafide qualification, (2) existing court orders and consent decrees require preferential treatment and (3) such treatment is needed to keep or obtain federal funds.

What's at stake: From a free-market, limited-government perspective, the abolition of preferential treatment and discrimination restores the standing of each individual as equal before the law.

Related OCPA Research:

Still want more information? Click here.

State Question No. 762

Summary: This measure would remove the governor from the parole process for nonviolent offenders and empowers the Pardon and Parole Board to grant parole to nonviolent offenders instead.

What's at stake: From a free-market, limited-government perspective, the Right on Crime initiative is supportive of reforms like SQ762 and correctly states that the criminal justice system must be transparent, accountable and efficient. Reforms like this one can and have produced such efficiency in other states without sacrificing public safety when other proper systems and safeguards are in place. However, the diminution of the authority of an elected official and the empowerment of unelected bureaucrats leaves state government less accountable to the people, and Oklahoma prosecutors have expressed concerns about this measure since those other reforms are absent from this state question. Efficiency in government is important and the governor's time is a valuable resource. Public safety is a certainly a core government service and elected officials should cede authority to appointed officials with care.

Still want more information? Click here.

State Question No. 764

Summary: This measure would enable the Oklahoma Water Resources Board to issue bonds to create a reserve fund for certain water resource and sewage funding programs. The legislature would provide for the specific method of issuance of the bonds and the operation of the reserve fund.

What's at stake: From a free-market, limited-government perspective, careful thought must be given to the expansion of potential liabilities for the state. Proponents of the ballot question suggest that, if it fails to pass, improvements to Oklahoma's drinking-water and wastewater infrastructure will cost more than $20 billion dollars more in the next five decades. They also suggest that smaller, rural communities across Oklahoma will be particularly hard-hit because fewer people live in those areas and can share the expense of water infrastructure upgrades.

Opponents of the ballot question point out that the state of Oklahoma already has $8 billion in outstanding bonded indebtedness and is paying more than $170 million this fiscal year to service those bonds. Also, opponents suggest that tying local water infrastructure bond projects to state-mandated guidelines will potentially have an adverse effect on local officials trying to structure water improvements effectively, in the same way that accepting federal funds often limits a state's ability to make effective policy decisions for its citizens.

Still want more information? Click here.

State Question No. 765

Summary: This measure would amend the Oklahoma Constitution to abolish the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, the Oklahoma Commission of Human Services and the position of Director of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services and authorizes the legislature to create a new department to provide for the care of the aged and needy.

What's at stake: From a free-market, limited-government perspective, this measure is actually not as extreme as it sounds. It's simply a matter of board reform. Currently, the Oklahoma Constitution directly creates the board -- a.k.a. the Oklahoma Commission of Human Services -- that operates the Department of Human Services. This unelected board chooses the DHS Commissioner. Furthermore, any given governor will appoint no more than a minority of the board members within his or her maximum two terms as governor. This measure would change that: Appointments to the chairmanship and the board would be at the will of the governor and would coincide with the term of the governor. The administration, then, would have every incentive to monitor DHS activity more closely, as incompetence would then reflect on the governor and would be a part of the political calculus determining reelection.

Related OCPA Research:

Chapter 6 of "Oklahoma Policy Blueprint"

Still want more information? Click here.

State Question No. 766

Summary: This measure would exempt all intangible personal property -- e.g. patents, inventions, formulas, designs, trade secrets, licenses, franchise, contracts, land leases, mineral interests, insurance policies, custom computer software, trademarks, trade names and brand names -- from property taxes. Historically the state has not taxed intangible personal property, except for some small instances of centrally assessed property for a small number of businesses. This measure is to respond to a recent Oklahoma Supreme court ruling mandating that all intangible personal property not specifically exempted is subject to property tax.

What's at stake: From a free-market, limited-government perspective, preventing property taxes on intangible personal property would serve as an incentive to entrepreneurship and prevent a massive intrusion of government into people’s lives. Only ten states assess property taxes on intangible personal property as interpreted by the Oklahoma Supreme court and such an expansion of taxing authority would likely be the largest tax increase in state history. Things such as a person’s interest in a public pension, the reputable name of a small family business, intellectual work during college and a host of other “intangibles” would now be subject to “valuation” and taxation by government bureaucrats. Ultimately, this state question is pretty cut and dry, a “Yes” vote ensures that all intangible property is exempt from property tax. A “No” vote subjects all intangible property to property tax.

Still want more information? Click here.