Stillwater News Press

October 27, 2012

Voters to decide state questions

By Chris Day
Stillwater NewsPress

STILLWATER, Okla. — Oklahoma voters will decide if six state questions pass or fail on Nov. 6.

The state questions range from banning affirmative action to reducing the cap on tax valuations for homes and farmland from 5 percent to 3 percent.

State Question 758 limits property tax assessment increases from 5 percent to 3 percent annually. It applies to homes and farmland. The lower cap would only come into play in areas where property assessments are soaring. Oklahomans living in poor communities, small town or rural areas probably won’t see any benefit from the lower cap. The lower cap, however, could result in higher property tax bills because millage rates might have to be raised to cover fixed costs, like a bond issue.

State Question 759 bans affirmative action in state employment, education and contracting. Affirmative action refers to policies that take race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation or national origin into consideration in hiring, schooling and selecting a contractor. The proposal includes three exemptions. They are: when gender is a bona fide qualification, when affirmative action programs are needed to comply with court orders and when it is mandated to continue eligibility for federal funding. Public hearing quotas and contract preferences have been illegal in Oklahoma since the early 1980s.

State Question 762 takes the governor out of the parole process for less serious, nonviolent offenses. Oklahoma’s governor must personally approve every parole. The state’s parole rates are far lower than most other states.

State Question 762 will let the Oklahoma Water Resource Board issue up to $300 million in bonds to create a water and sewage treatment lending program. The bonds would only be sold if local governments borrowing money from the board didn’t make their loan payments. There hasn’t been a loan default in 30 years.

State Question 765 repeals three sections of the constitution and adds another. It eliminates the Oklahoma Human Services Commission, transferring the power to hire and fire the state Department of Human Services director to the governor.

State Question 766 exempts intangible property — client lists, reputation and intellectual property — from property taxes. Only public utilities and transportation entities pay intangible property taxes now. Tax revenues to local governments would be reduced by approximately $50 million if the question passes. The Legislature already has created a $25 Business Activity Tax as a “tax in lieu of” intangible personal property tax.