Thursday evening, Bryan County citizens gathered at the Donald W. Reynolds Community Center and Library to listen to three men speak about the state questions proposed on the Nov. 6 ballots.
The Durant area Chamber of Commerce hosted the event which informed voters of the pros and cons of State Question 766 as well informing on the five other state questions.
The event was monitored by Durant Area Chamber of Commerce Legislative Committee Chair, Matt Mickle.
The pros of State Question 766 were presented by James Milner, president of the Milner Group and member of both the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce and Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce.
The cons of the state question were presented by Ryan Owens, Executive Director of United Suburban Schools Association and General Counsel for Oklahoma School Administration.
Each man was allotted 10 minutes to give their presentation. After the presentations there was a Q&A session followed by closing remarks lasting two minutes each.
Milner shared with the attendees a list of more than 100 intangible items that could be subject to taxation if the state question did not pass.
These items including, contracts, professional licenses, literary works and goodwill, could affect not only businesses but individuals as well according to Milner.
Milner also argued that the tax is a court interpretation of an old bill after legislation had made it clear that it did not want to tax intangible items any longer.
Owens made it clear that he is not for taxing intangible personal property but a no vote would not create a new bill but simply preserve what is already in place.
Owens argued that passing the bill could end up cutting $50 million to entities such as schools and technology centers.
“A no vote insures nothing changes,” said Owens. He said a yes vote on the other hand may actually cause property owners’ millage rates to increase.
Owens said that right now there is a Business Activity (BAT) Tax in place in lieu of the intangible tax. This allows businesses to pay $25 which they get back as a tax credit instead of paying the tax on intangible items.
Owens said that a no vote will insure nothing changes because he is positive the BAT Tax will remain in place should the question not pass.
According to him this would mean not raising taxes while not risking the cut to public schools.
Following the pros and cons of State Question 766, Dr. Rick Farmer, Oklahoma Assistant Commissioner of Government Affairs, Public Policy and Communications went over the other five state questions.
Farmer explained that the reason Oklahoma has a large number of state questions on each ballot is that When the state’s constitution was created, it was done so that nothing could be changed without a vote of the people.
Farmer said the writers put in everything they could think of into the constitution in order to keep the state government from having too much authority over the citizens.
Farmer handed out a summary of the state questions and briefly described each state question.
He then asked the audience for opinions and addressed concerns about each.
Farmer’s Summary is as follows:
SQ 758—Ad Valorem Tax Cap (HJR 1002 – Rep. Dank & Sen. Holt)
Lowers the cap from 5% to 3% on homestead exempted property valuation increases in
any single year.
SQ 759—Discrimination / Affirmative Action (SJR 15 – Sen. R. Johnson & Rep. Osborn)
Prohibits special treatment or discrimination based on race or sex in public
employment, education or public contracting.
SQ 762—Pardon & Parole (SJR 25 – Sen. Brecheen & Rep. Steele)
Allows the Pardon and Parole Board to grant parole for nonviolent offenses. Removes
the requirement that the Governor approve nonviolent offense paroles.
SQ 764—Water Resources Bonds (HJR 1085 – Rep. Richardson & Sen. Crain)
Allows the Oklahoma Water Resources Board to issue up to $300 million in general
obligation bonds. These state bonds would be used to guarantee municipal water and
SQ 765—Human Services Commission (HJR 1092 – Rep. Steele & Sen. Treat)
Removes the DHS, the DHS Commission and the Director DHS from the Constitution.
Allows a new agency to be created in statute by the legislature.
SQ 766—Intangible Property Tax Exemption (SJR 52 – Sen. Mazzei & Rep. Dank)
Exempts all intangible personal property from ad valorem tax.