As a public service (yeah, right), The Vent presents the Official Dustbury Guide to the 2004 Oklahoma State Questions. If you'd rather take the advice of The Oklahoman, they've endorsed all nine; if you thought the biggest problem in Oklahoma was that we didn't have enough gambling, you should love this election.

SQ 705
Establishes the state lottery, creates the commission to run it, and specifies the house percentage: "at least 45 percent" of the revenue from ticket sales will be returned as prizes, which strikes me as genuinely lousy odds. Net proceeds will go to educational purposes, which is a Good Thing, but I can think of ways to enrich the state's schools that don't depend on individual lust for money. And yet one factor leads me to support this measure: there is an infinitesimal chance that, should I play this thing, I might make enough money to be able to have some sort of retirement. Color me the Honest Hypocrite, and check Yes on 705.

SQ 706
Amends the state Constitution to create a trust fund for the lottery, as specified in SQ 705. This measure will not take effect if SQ 705 fails to pass. I'm tempted to vote against this on general principle, but the trust fund rules — among other things, any money therefrom may not be used to replace other state funds for education, a nice (and probably necessary) subtlety — suggest that some actual thought went into it, and I do believe in rewarding actual thought, so Yes on 706.

SQ 707
Will allow so-called "tax-increment" financing, which permits cities and counties to finance long-term projects over a number of years, rather than to have to enact a new measure every fiscal year. The net effect: the projects are financed from the expected revenue. The potential for mischief is high, and a lot of folks who have had to pony up the dollars for poorly-conceived projects have been properly appalled, but you don't (at least, I don't) ban chainsaws because someone might be clumsy, so Yes on 707.

SQ 708
Puts tighter restrictions on use of the state's Rainy Day Fund, reducing the amount that can be used for purposes other than compensating for budgetary shortfalls. Only 25 percent of the Fund (instead of 50) will be available for emergencies, and only 37.5 percent (instead of 50) will be available should state tax-collection predictions drop from one year to the next. Oklahoma is not exactly well-known for its fiscal discipline, though we do better than some other states; certainly we do ourselves no service by depleting the Rainy Day Fund every chance we get, which leads me to vote Yes on 708.

SQ 711
Amends the state Constitution to define marriage to be between one man and one woman, bars civil unions that offer the same benefits as marriage, and denies acknowledgement of same-sex marriages from other states. Inasmuch as same-sex marriages are already illegal in this state, this measure is superfluous; more to the point, while there are perfectly logical reasons to oppose them which don't imply that the opponent is necessarily some horrid hidebound bigot, I don't like the idea of establishing a precedent that in the future could be used by horrid hidebound bigots for some nefarious purpose — this isn't a chainsaw, it's a bludgeon — and that reason alone is enough for me to vote No on 711.

SQ 712
Enacts the State-Tribal Gaming Act, which attempts to garner some revenue from Native American casinos by allowing them more gaming options in exchange for a cut, and allows game machines at the state's major racetracks, which have seen a downturn in business of late. This has inexplicably been pitched as an "education and jobs" measure, though few jobs are involved and very little money is likely to flow into education from its enactment. The Sac and Fox Nation has objected to this measure, but most of the tribes seem to see it as a possible boon, and horsemen definitely favor it; it's a narrow call for me, but all else being equal, I'd rather allow something than ban something, so a halfhearted (at best) Yes on 712.

SQ 713
Drops the sales tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products and imposes new, higher taxes: for instance, cigarettes will be taxed at 4 cents each. (Previously, the tax was 25 cents per pack, which means an increase of 55 cents per pack should this measure pass.) Proponents expect nearly half a billion dollars a year in health-care funding. By itself this isn't bothersome, but getting it through the Legislature required saddling it with irrelevant amendments, all of which have their laudable aspects — cutting the capital-gains tax is good, increasing the tax exemption for seniors is good, and dropping the top income-tax rate by 0.35 percent isn't bad — but none of which have anything to do with either tobacco or health care. The state ACLU had filed suit to block SQ 711, claiming, among other things, that it was a "violation of the single subject rule for ballot questions"; it's a shame they couldn't have been bothered to take on 713, which is much more egregious a violation. Meanwhile, I'm left with the question: "Can I vote against something as a whole even if I approve of the individual provisions?" Yes, I can: No on 713.

SQ 714
Amends the Constitution's senior-valuation freeze on real property used as a homestead, changing the gross-income test for seniors from a flat $25,000 annually to a figure at or below the area's mean income level as determined by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Inflation being what it is — annually perhaps small, cumulatively invariably monstrous — this will probably cost the counties a few bucks, but it will save seniors on a fixed income a few bucks. Yes on 714.

SQ 715
Amends the Constitution to abate the property tax in full on the homes owned by injured veterans and their surviving spouses. Conditions are imposed: most notably, the injury must have been the result of military action and must have caused a government-certified 100-percent disability. Looks good to me: Yes on 715.

If you were wondering what happened to those two missing numbers: 709, a tribal-gaming measure, was more or less supplanted by 712, and 710, which "protects the right of the people to fish hunt, or trap," also was devised to protect "the right of the people to work in a job or take part in events that deal with livestock, fowl, birds, fish or other animals," which makes me think it was a back-door attempt to get around 2002's SQ 687, which banned cockfighting.

The Vent

  23 October 2004

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