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Broad based coalition announces opposition to State Question 744

Broad based coalition announces opposition to State Question 744

April 8, 2010
Contact: Crystal Drwenski

News Release

(April 8) – A widely supported opposition group to State Question 744 formally announced their opposition to the ballot initiative and began explaining to Oklahomans why this state question would be devastating for Oklahoma and its families.

The One Oklahoma Coalition, represented by leaders from the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, the Oklahoma Public Employees Association, The TRUST Road & Bridge Coalition, the Tulsa Metro Chamber, the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber and The State Chamber of Oklahoma , expressed why they are opposing SQ 744. The group also issued a call to action for citizens to learn more about the devastating effects passage of this state question would have on the state and join their effort to defeat SQ 744.

Campaign Manager, Jeff Wilson said, “The One Oklahoma Coalition is a group of Oklahoma associations, organizations and individuals that is dedicated to moving Oklahoma forward together.

“Our coalition supports improving education, but not by pitting different needs of the state against one another. The simple fact is, if SQ 744 becomes the law of the land, Oklahoma’s families, businesses, people and children will suffer,” said Wilson.

“The broad base of the One Oklahoma Coalition reflects the mounting concern of the far reaching negative financial and economic impact of SQ 744,” said Wilson. Members of the group said they are focusing all of their differing member interests in an effort to work for the common good of all Oklahoma citizens and defeat this poorly crafted State Question.

Represented at the press event was a spectrum of urban and rural interests, labor and business, taxpayers and tax-users, as well as Republicans and Democrats.

Wilson went on to provide an overview of State Question 744, explaining its own proponents estimate the cost of SQ 744 to Oklahoma taxpayers will be $850 to $930 million in its first full year of implementation with no identified way to pay for the mandate.

“The only two options are either to dramatically raise taxes or cut spending on other programs,” said Wilson.

A member of the group’s steering committee, Mike Spradling, president of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau said, “The Farm Bureau is dedicated to the preservation of rural Oklahoma, our family farms and our heritage. We have a responsibility to take a leading role in defeating SQ 744 because it would be devastating to rural Oklahoma.
“We can’t afford to pass a ballot issue that has the potential to dramatically raise property taxes to a level that makes it impossible to keep family farms profitable. That’s why the Oklahoma Farm Bureau stands in opposition to state question 744.

“It is simply a flawed concept. I think we can all agree that is ridiculous for Oklahoma to tie its per pupil spending to what is needed in cities like Dallas or Houston where the cost of living is much higher,” said Spradling.

Sterling Zearley, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Public Employees Association said, “As an organization devoted to improving the quality of state government, as well as the interests of more than 10,000 state employees, the Oklahoma Public Employees Association is united in its opposition to SQ 744.

“This year is a tough year for the state budget and for state employees. If state government were to take an extra $850 million out of the budget, the effects would be devastating to all Oklahomans – including children.

“Just as one example, consider how it would increase the burden on our caseworkers working with the thousands of children in our Foster Care program. It would also make families less safe, as it would likely mean cuts among corrections officers and state troopers. It would undoubtedly lead to cuts in healthcare and mental health services,” said Zearley.

Fred Morgan, president and CEO of The State Chamber of Oklahoma said, “The State Chamber has always been an advocate of developing a quality workforce. Our organization has long been a supporter of common, higher and career education along with Oklahoma’s strong career technology system. We know that we need a well-educated workforce for companies to succeed in the state. But SQ 744 goes about this in the wrong way.

“We believe that SQ 744 will hurt, not improve, education in this state. As designed, SQ 744 only addresses one component of education, K through 12, or common education. SQ 744 will hurt higher education, career tech education and would likely reverse any progress we have made in early childhood education.

“We also believe that its passage would be a job killer and that it would hamper any efforts to encourage companies to expand or bring jobs to Oklahoma,” said Morgan.

The group closed their commentary by urging Oklahomans to pull together as a state, not pull apart. Instead of working against each other, they said it is preferable to find ways to grow the entire state’s economy instead of pitting interests against each other, as this state question clearly does. Last, they encouraged all Oklahomans, rural and urban, to get involved in stopping the initiative.

In addition to those speaking, the coalition also circulated quotes from other members of the coalition who did not speak at the event. These are attached.

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