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Local News

August 30, 2010

SQ 744 and 754 have residents scratching their heads

Ada — A record number of state questions will appear on the Nov. 2 state ballot in Oklahoma, but two in particular have residents scratching their heads.

State Question 744 — if passed — will amend the Oklahoma State Constitution. If passed, SQ 754 will also amend the constitution and essentially shoot down SQ 744.

If SQ 744 is approved, it will amend the constitution to require the Oklahoma State Legislature to fund public education to at least the per-pupil average of neighboring states. It would require the State to spend annually, no less than the average amount spent on each student by those states which border Oklahoma.

SQ 754 would essentially prohibit the constitution from requiring the Legislature to fund state functions based on predetermined formulas or how much any other state — or other entity — spends.

Those who support SQ 744 say Oklahoma is dead last in the region and 49th in the nation in money invested in students. Voting yes on SQ 744 would give Oklahoma children the same educational opportunities as students in neighboring states like Arkansas and Texas, according to supporters.

Opponents of SQ 744 say since there is no funding mechanism for it, money will either have to be shifted out of other agencies or funded through tax increases. Essentially, the measure would cost the state $850 million and devastate every other state agency, forcing a 20-percent cut for each. The only other remedy would be to raise Oklahoma residents’ income taxes by 34 percent.

Dr. Rick Farmer, Ph. D, director of committee staff for the Oklahoma State Representatives, said there is a statute in the Oklahoma Constitution that says  if to constitutional amendments pass, the one that receives the most votes would take effect.

“But can a statute direct the state’s constitution? I don’t know about that,” Farmer said. “So here’s my prediction: If any of these pass, one the other or both, it’s going to be in the Supreme Court, It’ll be a big lawsuit,” Farmer said. “We’re talking about a billion dollars.”

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