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Tulsa World Editorials

Questions 7 of 9 deserve support
2002-11-03

Voters on Tuesday will find nine state questions on the ballot, a lengthy list that might lead to some confusion or voter fatigue.

The Tulsa World supports passage of seven of the questions, including SQ 687, the anti-cockfighting measure that has created so much interest, and opposes two.

Following is an encapsulated review of the World's choices:

Yes on SQ 687. Much has been written and said about the proposal to outlaw cockfighting, keeping or training birds for cockfighting or operating a place for cockfighting to take place. And much of what has been written and said is a massive disinformation campaign by some people who oppose the ban and support cockfights. SQ 687 applies to cockfighting only -- nothing else.

The issue is simple: A "yes" vote on SQ 687 will spare Oklahoma the national embarrassment of being one of three states that permits this barbaric, bloodthirsty activity.

Yes on SQ 693. The measure encourages local governments to use tax increment zones, where tax revenues generated by improvements in a designated area are plowed back in to pay for more infrastructure improvements. It would require taxes earmarked for debt payment to remain in effect until the bonds are retired. That would permit larger industrial development projects that are possible under current law.

Yes on SQ 696. This would exempt from property taxes up to 100 square feet of a storm shelter or "safe room" built after Jan. 1, 2002. The incentive to build life-saving shelters would have little impact on tax revenues.

Yes on SQ 697. This is another economic development proposition. It would allow voters to designate for industrial development one-fourth of the 10-mill county ad valorem tax on business properties that previously were tax-exempt. Again, the tax revenue impact would be small.

No on SQ 698. This began as a desperate attempt to keep the cockfighting measure off the ballot. It would double the number of signatures required on any initiative petition that dealt with certain activitiesinvolving animals. Requiring different numbers of signatures for different kinds of petitions is patently unfair.

Yes on SQ 701. This would change the management of the state's tobacco settlement trust fund, already $90 million, to achieve a more predictable cash flow and, over time, increase the fund's value. SQ 701 is supported by state treasurer Robert Butkin and others who supported the original trust fund, which prevents settlement payments each year from merely being mixed in with general funds.

Yes on SQ 702. This would permit state tax abatement in cases of bankruptcy, taxpayer insolvency and a couple of other unusual situations. It is intended to bring Oklahoma Tax Commission policy into line with that of the federal Internal Revenue Service.

Yes on SQ 703. This would authorize the Legislature to limit the liability of information technology firms that contract with the state. Current law discourages contractors doing business with the state.

No on SQ 704. This would permit school districts to pay county assessor inspection costs from building funds. They're currently paid from operations funds. Costs of on-site property inspection are charged by county assessors to school districts in the county. Schools have no choice but to pay whatever the assessor says is due. The process has been abused by assessors. For example, some assessors have used the charges to pay for unrelated operations in their offices. Independent oil and gas producers contend that the on-site inspection funds have been used to hire property tax "bounty hunters" -- consultants who unfairly target producers.

SQ 704 would not fix the situation and in fact might make it worse. And besides, building funds ought to be reserved for just that -- school buildings.

To recap, the World recommends yes votes on questions 687, 693, 696, 697, 701, 702 and 703, and no votes on questions 698 and 704.