Oklahoma Election 2012: October 2012 Archives

There are six state questions on the November 6, 2012, general election ballot in Oklahoma. All of them are constitutional amendments, requiring a vote of the people, and all of them are legislative referenda -- questions initiated by the legislature, rather than by initiative petition.

The state election board has the language that will appear on the ballot, but to look at the actual language that will go into the Oklahoma Constitution, you have to go to the Oklahoma Secretary of State's website. There's a special page for proposed questions, with PDFs of the relevant legislation and the verbatim proposed changes to the state constitution. (Unlike amendments to the U. S. Constitution which are tacked on at the end, Oklahoma constitutional amendments directly add to, delete from, and modify the text of the constitution.) The links on each state question name will take you directly to the Secretary of State's PDF for that question, so you can read the whole thing for yourself.

A quick summary of how I plan to vote:

SQ 758: NO
SQ 759: YES
SQ 762: NO
SQ 764: NO
SQ 765: YES
SQ 766: YES

SQ 758 takes the existing 5% cap on annual increase in taxable property value and reduces it to 3% for residential homestead and agricultural property. I'm persuaded by Tulsa County Assessor Ken Yazel's argument that this measure would shift some of the tax burden from property owners in rapidly appreciating areas to property owners where values are relatively stable. Putting a cap on valuation doesn't put a cap on tax rates.

Property taxes come in two flavors. There are straight millages that support schools, county government, the library, the health department, the community college, the vo-tech school. As taxable value increases, the amount of property tax increases by the same proportion. For these taxes, a limit on the increase in taxable value also limits the increase in taxes.

Then there are millages that vary to cover bond issues and court judgments and settlements for cities and school districts. A little more than a third of my annual property tax bill falls into this category.

General obligation bond issues and civil settlements and judgments are paid out of a "sinking fund" which then has to be replenished. The county excise board determines how much replenishment is needed each year and the amount is divided among property owners in proportion to taxable value. It's a simple fraction -- the numerator is the demanded amount of tax revenue, as approved by the excise board; the denominator is the taxable value of property in the jurisdiction as determined by the county assessor in accordance with state law, which sets valuation caps and freezes.

If the taxable value grows at a slower pace because of a cap on taxable value increase, it doesn't change the amount that has to be covered by property taxes; it just means a higher millage is required to generate the same amount of revenue. This means that even seniors with a valuation freeze will see their property taxes go up.

And because this cap only applies to homesteads and agricultural properties, SQ 758 would shift the burden of replenishing the sinking fund to residential landlords and commercial property owners. That extra cost will be passed on to shoppers (who will pay the store's higher lease costs or higher taxes), employers (who will have less money for salaries and benefits), and those who live in rental property. Among residential homeowners, the tax burden will shift from those with rapidly appreciating properties to those with frozen or slow-growing valuations.

Assessor Yazel has a chart (p. 10 of this PDF) showing the gap of a little more than 6% between fair market value and taxable value in the 15 years since taxable value caps and freezes were enacted. Looked at another way, taxable value lags fair market value by about two years. That lag, however, is not evenly distributed, although it is narrowing as fair market value has flattened in recent years.

If the goal is to keep property tax levels under control, we need to work on the numerator of that fraction:

  • City attorney should aggressively defend against lawsuits, and there should be incentives to encourage that. (As things stand, cities can save general fund sales tax dollars by capitulating to lawsuit demands, which are paid by property tax dollars. That incentive needs to go away. If there's a financial judgment against the city, the responsible elected officials, managers, and employees should bear some of the cost.)
  • Keep bonded indebtedness from increasing. Only pass new G.O. bond issues when old ones expire.
  • Make excise board members more directly accountable to the people. Put watchdogs in those seats who will not merely rubber-stamp sinking fund requests from the taxing entities.

We should also have a review of fixed millage levels and determine whether they ought to be adjusted. Are they generating too much revenue for the taxing entities or too little?

My opposition to this measure puts me at odds with some frequent allies. Americans for Prosperity Oklahoma has endorsed SQ 758, as have State Rep. Jason Murphey, Gov. Mary Fallin and the Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee. OCPA writes positively about the SQ 758, but with a caveat:

From a free-market, limited-government perspective, specifying and limiting potential increases in the fair cash value of a property -- which determines property taxes -- enables property owners to better budget taxes in advance and know how much money they will have left for spending, saving and investing in the private sector -- and that's all a positive. It's important to note, though, that this is not specifically a measure to lower property taxes; again, it's a measure to limit increases to the appraised market value of a property, which determines property taxes.

MORE: Tulsa County Assessor Ken Yazel has some excellent resources on his website explaining how property taxes work, where your money goes, and how to apply for the various types of property tax relief that the legislature has authorized over the years. While the stats are specific to Tulsa County, the rules and concepts apply statewide, controlled as they are by state constitution and statute.

If you're a registered Oklahoma voter and want to vote, but circumstances will have you away from your polling place all day election day, you have two options.

Absentee in person: The easy option is to go to your county election board during "absentee in-person" voting hours:

  • Friday, November 2, 2012, 8 AM - 6 PM
  • Saturday, November 3, 2012, 8 AM - 1 PM
  • Monday, November 5, 2012, 8 AM - 6 PM

The Tulsa County Election Board is at 555 N. Denver Ave, just across I-244/US-412 from downtown Tulsa. It's in a former Safeway supermarket building, a classic "Marina-style" with arched roof and glass front that the chain built in the 1960s.

You must go to the election board for the county in which you're registered to vote. If you live in Gilcrease Hills, for example, or western Skiatook, you have to go to Pawhuska to vote absentee in-person. If you live in the Spunky Creek neighborhood of Catoosa, you'd go to Claremore, but if you're in the Rolling Hills neighborhood, you have to go to Wagoner.

Absentee by mail: If you can't get to your county election board during those hours, you have one last opportunity to vote a traditional absentee ballot by mail. You can submit an application for an absentee ballot to your county election board; the county election board must receive the application by 5 p.m. today, Wednesday, October 31, 2012. You can apply in person or fax your application to the county election board.

Here's a direct link to the Tulsa County Election Board absentee ballot request, which has the fax number and instructions printed on it. Here's a direct link to the generic Oklahoma absentee ballot request.

The county election board will put a ballot in the mail, which, if all goes well, you'll have by Friday. You then need to vote the ballot, put it in the supplied sealed envelope, and then get a notary to witness and seal an affidavit that says it's really you voting the ballot. Get it in the mail ASAP -- in Tulsa a ballot mailed before pick-up time on Friday should be back to the election board by Tuesday. Absentee ballots must be returned by mail and will only be counted if they arrive at the county election board by 7 p.m. on election day.

(There are different rules for physically incapacitated voters, for voters in nursing homes, and for overseas and military voters. See the state election board's page on absentee voting in Oklahoma for details.)

Please note that postmarks don't count -- the application must be in the hands of the county election board by 5 p.m. today, and the ballot must be in the hands of the county election board by 7 p.m. election day.

It's the next to last weekend for the election, and there are plenty of opportunities to help good candidates in close races.

Oklahoma Republican chairman Matt Pinnell's call to the troops from a couple of weeks ago is even more urgent now:

Our nominees' need your help, and in one area in particular, knocking doors.

Door to door campaigning is so effective because it accomplishes three important campaign goals, all with minimal cost: First, name ID. It builds positive name identification like direct mail cannot. Second, credibility. It shows that people really are actually supporting the candidate! And finally, turnout. It simply is the most effective method for encouraging people to vote.

Running a door-to-door canvas takes time and hard work, and to be honest, it's becoming harder and harder to find volunteers willing to walk for candidates....

I don't want to sound rude folks, but I really don't care about excuses anymore. If this election cycle won't get you off your backside, I don't know what will.

Look...we have a fantastic slate of candidates from the Courthouse to the State House and Senate that have stepped up to represent US. Please...I need you to help them. You a precinct captain? You have no excuse, it's your job. You a taxpaying citizen? No excuse, it's the future of your state and nation on the line.

Chairman Matt is right -- studies show that face-to-face, personal contact is the most effective way to mobilize voters to turn out for your favorite candidate.

Here's a list of all Republican legislative candidates on the November 6 ballot in Oklahoma, with contact phone numbers and email addresses, so you can contact them directly and see how they can use your help in these last 10 days of the campaign.

Right here in Tulsa's House District 71 (21st to 81st, Lewis to the River), Republican Katie Henke could really use your help. Long-time Tulsans may think this is a solid Republican district, because it's been held by Republicans for all but two years since its creation in 1964, and that Democrat won because the incumbent Republican had some problems that weren't discovered until too late for him to be challenged in a primary. (Warren Green, 1965-1976; Helen Arnold, 1977-1982; Bill Clark, 1983-1988; Rob Johnson, 1989-1994; John Sullivan, 1995-2001; Chad Stites, 2002; Roy McClain (the only D), 2003-2004; Dan Sullivan, 2004-2011.)

But boundaries and demographics have changed; Obama won 45% of the vote in this district in 2008.

House 71 was supposed to have been filled in April, but a special election was ruled "too close to call." Democrat Dan Arthrell appeared to have won by three votes, then Katie Henke won the recount by one vote, and then, suddenly, two votes were found stuck in a ballot box, both for Arthrell. The judge threw the election out, the seat remained vacant, and now we have a rematch between Henke and Arthrell.

You can walk for Katie Henke this morning (Saturday, October 27) at 10:30, gathering at the Tulsa County Republican Victory HQ, 2816 E. 51st St., and again tomorrow afternoon (Sunday, October 28) at the 2300 Riverside Drive condo tower at 1:00 pm.

You can also make phone calls from the Tulsa County Victory HQ on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday nights for various Republican candidates, including Oklahoma's congressional nominees.

Further afield, the Oklahoma Republican Party still has a few openings for volunteers to knock doors in Colorado for the Romney/Ryan ticket. You have to be willing to work hard -- you'll be out knocking eight hours a day for four days. Contact the state party HQ for more info. The bus leaves Sunday.

There's a competitive Senate race just 100 miles to our northeast. Republican Todd Akin is within 2 percentage points of incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill. This race could decide overall control of the U. S. Senate and may determine whether Obamacare can be repealed and replaced.

The closest competitive House race is here in eastern Oklahoma, but the next closest is down in southwestern Texas. Republican Quico Canseco beat the incumbent Democrat two years ago, and now a different Democrat is trying to return the favor. The district is highly competitive and covers a huge territory from San Antonio neighborhoods all the way west to the outskirts of El Paso. During my extended time in San Antonio on business in 2010, I volunteered to make calls for Quico and had the joy to be at his victory party on election night.

Even if you can't travel, the Romney/Ryan campaign and many senate and house campaigns are equipped to allow volunteers to phone from home from anywhere in the country. Visit your favorite candidate's website to learn more. And every competitive campaign could use more money. Consider making a contribution -- any amount helps.

Both candidates in the closely contested Oklahoma Senate District 39 race have taken a position on Vision2. Incumbent Brian Crain enthusiastically supports the Tulsa County 13-year, 0.6 cent tax scheme; challenger Julie Hall has expressed skepticism about the plan and the hasty, opaque process that produced it.

Sen. Brian Crain issued a press release in support of Vision2 shortly after the Tulsa County Republican Party County Committee voted to oppose the tax plan and to censure the two Republicans on the Tulsa County Commission for putting it on the ballot.

"Tulsa County has an historic opportunity to secure the future of our area, both economically and in quality of life, by assuring our status as a center of aerospace maintenance. Not since the Spavinaw Lake project of the 1920s has a public investment in Tulsa County's future of this importance been submitted to a vote of the people." Crain continued by stating, "By their action, Commissioners Smaligo and Perry have proven to be strong and far-sighted stewards of our assets and resources."

Julie Hall, Crain's Democratic challenger, wrote the following comment on Facebook in reference to my comment about some Democratic officials support for "corporate welfare funded by a regressive tax":

I don't know that you can call it corporate welfare since we have no guarantees it will keep jobs in Tulsa. It may just be a boondoggle. I also don't believe it is as simple as whether Tulsans want progress - of course, we do. This process has lacked the public involvement and transparency we deserve before authorizing the expenditure of millions of dollars. We have time for a thoughtful, strategic plan. If it is worth doing....

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Oklahoma Election 2012 category from October 2012.

Oklahoma Election 2012: August 2012 is the previous archive.

Oklahoma Election 2012: November 2012 is the next archive.

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