Oklahoma Treasurer Opposes State Question 744

Monday, October 11th 2010, 9:09 pm
By: News On 6

By Ashli Sims, The News On 6

UNDATED -- The campaign to boost education dollars has the state's top money man coming out swinging.

Oklahoma treasurer Scott Meacham calls State Question 744 the single biggest threat facing the state.

The state question to change how Oklahoma funds education is prompting heated debate on and off the air waves. State question 744 would constitutionally require Oklahoma to spend as much per student as the regional average.

9/30/2010 Related Story: Will State Question 744 Help Or Hurt Oklahoma?

The "No" camp says there's no way to pay for 744; the "Yes" camp says the money is there, it's just not being spent properly.

An ad supporting State Question 744 says Oklahoma can afford the measure by ending two billion dollars in tax breaks for special interest.

"No, there's not two billion dollars in tax breaks," Meacham said.

News On 6 reporter Ashli Sims checked the Oklahoma Tax Commission's latest report and found there are billions of dollars in tax breaks and exemptions for individuals and corporations.

Specifically, there are $1.7 billion in tax exemptions for "sales to manufacturers," including deposits for crates used to transport mushrooms, sales of returnable soft drink, beer and water containers, and machinery, materials and equipment used for coal mining.

The Yes Campaign cites the tens of millions of dollars wasted in the past on bankrupt businesses like Great Plains Airlines, but not current waste. Meacham claims there's not much left.

"We're through our second straight year of massive cuts in state government. We've literally cut hundreds of millions of dollars out of state government," he said. "There's not a lot of waste yet."

An ad supporting State 744 also states Oklahoma can afford the measure by cutting politicians' perks.

News On 6 reporter Ashli Sims asked the Yes campaign what it meant by perks.  A spokesperson cited things like tax-payer funded travel by lawmakers.

Last spring, the Oklahoma Impact Team combed through those travel records and discovered lawmakers were charging taxpayers for trips from Canada to Cuba. And they weren't sparing any expense,

But the total price tag for lawmaker travel was 1.5 million last year. That's a far cry from the $390 million State Question 744 is estimated to cost in its first year alone.

State Treasurer Scott Meacham says he usually doesn't weigh in on political issues like state questions, but he believes he has an obligation to the state to speak out against State Question 744.

To learn more about state questions that will be on the November ballot, check out NewsOn6.com/politics.