This pro-SQ 766 advertisement clearly distorts the measure’s impact.
I’ve had several conversations with people about State Question 766, which, if approved by Oklahoma voters on Nov. 6, would exempt intangible property from taxes.
The above advertisement, which ends with a fear mongering distortion if not an outright lie, has made some people anxious that if SQ 766 isn’t passed their taxes will increase. That’s not true. If fact, if it IS passed, people who own property could see property tax increases and funding to schools will be cut.
SQ 766 is a measure that rewards big corporations, such as utility companies, with tax exemptions. Homeowners could pay for these exemptions because some millage taxation is mandatory-school bonds, for example-because of legal obligation. The taxation that isn’t legally mandatory will mean funding to schools and counties will be cut. Those cuts could even mean less funding to some fire departments and law enforcement agencies. One state school administrator argues education overall in the state will end up with a $33 million cut. Some have estimated the overall cost to local government entities as high as $68 million.
Fallin’s pro-SQ 766 advertisement claims, “We know it’s just plain wrong to tax things like teaching certificates, pensions and insurance policies.” Well, yes, it IS wrong, but those “things” will NOT be taxed as intangible property whether SQ 766 passes or not. The legislature, in fact, passed legislation, Senate Bill 1436, last session that ensures that is the case. The bottom line is this: Teaching certificates, pensions and insurance policies will NOT be taxed as part of your “property” whether SQ 766 passes or not. The advertisement is terribly misleading. Fallin has every right to support big utility companies over ordinary Oklahomans as part of the ongoing Republican agenda here and elsewhere, but this specific advertisement smacks of craven manipulation.
The history of the measure is somewhat involved, and I think this has made many people simply ignore it. Let me simplify it. The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that AT&T was not exempt from certain taxes on intangible property. The company-and I would suspect other big companies-started to press for a political resolution. As part of their approach they relied on a slippery slope argument about intangible taxes when, in fact, it was nothing more than another tax exemption for larger corporations. Thus, SQ 766 made it on the ballot.
The measure itself defines intangible property as including “patents, inventions, formulas, designs, and trade secrets; licenses, franchise, and contracts; land leases, mineral interests, and insurance policies; custom computer software; and trademarks, trade names and brand names.” Obviously, the measure’s language shows its main purpose is to give tax breaks to corporations.
Fallin’s argument in her advertisement that SQ 766 “would protect Oklahoma taxpayers” really only applies to the biggest corporations doing business and paying taxes in the state. So, essentially, the measure could raise property taxes on individual Oklahoma homeowners, according to some, to ensure more revenue for large corporations.
SQ 766 supporters are clearly hoping voters here will not take the time to study the question’s real impact and simply accept the governor’s word. It’s another ploy to manipulate low-information voters. That’s unfortunate, and it’s also unfortunate the anti-SQ 766 forces didn’t have the organizational power and money to launch a larger counter campaign.
If SQ 766 passes, according to many people, school funding will be cut and property taxes could increase for ordinary homeowners. Oklahomans will once again be increasing the revenues of big corporations under the misguided notion they are helping themselves.