Truth Test: Ads opposing State Question 713

Monday, October 25th 2004, 5:32 pm
By: News On 6

Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry wants TV stations to pull an advertisement that claims State Question 713 is a huge tax increase for most - but a tax break for the rich.

News on 6 reporter Emory Bryan has more in this Truth Test.

A coalition of tobacco companies has come out with ads against State Question 713. The issue on the ballot is a 55-cents per pack increase on cigarette taxes, with the money designated for health care.

The ads make it sound like something else. Announcer: “State Question 713 is a $200-million tax increase, and a tax cut for the rich.” The governor thinks TV stations shouldn't run those ads. He wrote TV stations saying the ads are "a deceptive public information campaign designed to derail State Question 713" and the ads "are not only misleading by untrue."

The ads claim State Question 713 is a $200-million tax increase. The truth is the state expects it raise even more than that - but $70-million goes back to government to offset lost sales taxes - so the increase - is $150-million, not $200-million.

Oklahoma's attorney general says the claims in the ad can't be trusted. AG Drew Edmondson: "Why anyone in Oklahoma would trust big tobacco, is beyond me.”

The ads claim State Question 713 is a tax cut for the rich. The truth is it freezes the top state income tax rate where it is now, decreases taxes on benefits for some retired people and cuts capital gains taxes - which generally benefits people with higher income. The state question has the support of a wide variety of healthcare groups which stand to benefit from the new taxes that would be collected if voters approve.

The ads also claim the tax increase will hit the poor hardest - but it's not specific to income - it hits heavy smokers the hardest. If it passes - taxes will go up 55-cents a pack - making the total tax on cigarettes a dollar a pack, effective January 1st. The estimate on how much it will raise comes from the state - so it's not just a number drawn out of the air.