Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

October 18, 2012

Questions tackle tax, employment issues

TAHLEQUAH — On Tuesday, Nov. 6, Oklahoma voters will help determine the state’s role on issues like property taxes and equal employment opportunity.

Six statewide questions have been approved for the 2012 general election ballot, and members of the Oklahoma Legislature await each measure’s fate.

If approved, State Question 758 will amend the state constitution and would prevent county tax assessors from raising the determined value of homes and farms by more than 3 percent per year.

The state’s current limit is 5 percent, and the intended cap would keep property tax bills from rising too expeditiously. By law, assessors are required to re-assess real property value every year, and the valuation of a home may increase, decrease or stay the same in any given year, said Sen. Jim Wilson, D-Tahlequah.

“This state question asks the voters to approve an amendment replacing the upper limit of 5 percent per year with 3 percent. If the property increases in value faster than the upper limit, the assessed value is adjusted to the actual value at the time the property is sold,” he said. “In the interim, the owner gets relief from paying taxes on the actual value of the property. The argument for the limit is to protect fixed income seniors from big tax bills as their property increases in value. The argument against is valuations that increase more then 5 percent - 3 percent if this passes - is a gift to those living in affluent neighborhoods, where it is more likely real estate values are increasing faster. This gift, in turn, takes tax revenue from schools and county functions, while giving unearned tax breaks to wealthier people.”

The nuance, Wilson noted, is the tax assessor may be forced to raise the millage rate to compensate for the tax cut.

“Millage is not controlled by this measure. Artificially capping the assessed value and raising the millage rate effectively shifts the tax burden from the capped few, usually wealthier taxpayers, to those whose valuations are not increasing taxpayers,” he said. “Because of slower increases or declining real estate values in recent years, passing this measure helps very few.”

Under SQ 758, the big winners are Oklahomans who live in homes that are increasing the most in value, typically those in desirable suburban areas near good schools, said Rep. Mike Brown, D - Tahlequah.

“Oklahomans living in less prosperous urban or rural neighborhoods would get little to no benefit, since their homes values will not increase nearly as much, and they could end up paying higher taxes as millage rates are raised to meet obligations. Renters could also pay more when landlords pass down some or all of the increased tax bill as higher rent,” he said. “It’s a tax cut for some, paid for by a combination of budget cuts and tax hikes on others.”

Brown added that most rural assessors do not make automatic 5 percent increases to property unless there are improvements.

“The property is appraised during a sale,” he said. “If the measure passes, property taxes could be assessed a 3 percent increase annually until your property tax aligns with property value.”

State Question 759 would add a new section to the Oklahoma Constitution, if approved by the people, and would ban government affirmative action programs in the state, with some exceptions.

Affirmative action programs demand employment hiring preferences or other special treatment based on race, color, gender, ethnicity or national origin. State Question 759 would stop use of such predilections in public employment, education and contracts.

As a public institution of higher education, Northeastern State University makes sure its screening and hiring process does not discriminate against any individual, said NSU President Dr. Steve Turner.

“We expect and appreciate a diverse work force. Our goal should always be to hire the most qualified person regardless of race, color, gender, ethnicity or national origin,” he said. “The U.S. Supreme Court is currently looking at Fisher vs. The University of Texas at Austin. In this case, a student claims she was denied admissions based on other racial quotas. It seems that Affirmative Action and its application will be decided by the Supreme Court very soon. I will watch for the outcomes of the national and state debates and make sure the employment and admission processes at Northeastern State University follow the law.”

The measure would allow three hiring exceptions, which include gender allowance when it is a valid job qualification, when existing court orders and consent decrees require affirmative action and when affirmative action is needed to keep or obtain federal funds. Proponents of SQ 759 say affirmative action is no longer needed in the state and state jobs and contracts should be awarded to the most qualified applicant.

“In relation to the Oklahoma Production Center and State Question 759, one of the areas targeted is contracts, and the Oklahoma Production Center contracts with the state in several areas to perform services and/or product contracts and receives a preference, as long as it meets fair market value,” said OPC Programs and Services Director Steve Clay. “Without this preference, many people with or without disabilities would be without a job, and the money derived from these contracts would not be going back into the Tahlequah economy.”

Ironically, supporters of the ban and SQ 759 oppose practices that are already illegal in Oklahoma, or never existed in the first place, said Brown.

“There are no ‘quotas’ for hiring or admitting minorities – public hiring quotas and contract preferences have been illegal in Oklahoma since the early 1980s. However, affirmative action programs are now standard in the private sector, which has embraced equal opportunity employment practices,” he said. “From Boeing to Starbucks, to the mom and pop operations that line main street, the private sector  clearly sees the value in inclusion and diversity. Also of note, extensive research on affirmative action has so far uncovered no evidence of a new regime of reverse racism. State Question 759 makes practices that are voluntarily and widely adopted by the private sector, illegal in the public sector.”

Passage of this measure satisfies the argument of reverse discrimination, regardless of its validity, said Wilson.

“Proponents say scholarships, jobs, contracts should go to the most qualified - preferences are no longer necessary for social benefit. Opponents point to the low opportunities and high unemployment rate of some minorities  – that women make 23 percent less than men for the same job,” he said. “State law already prohibits quotas. And programs such as Tahlequah’s OPC may no longer secure contracts because they can’t compete. It seems unlikely society benefits by denying the developmentally disabled an opportunity to work and feel productive. The Cherokee Nation may not be able to secure set-aside contracts – much of what CNI and CNE does – unless the contracts fall within one of the three exceptions.”

State Question 762, if passed by majority vote Nov. 6, would amend Section 10 of Article 6 of the Oklahoma Constitution, and would remove the governor from the parole process for most nonviolent offenders. If the measure is approved, the appointed Pardon and Parole Board would have the final vote in deciding whether to release a nonviolent criminal from prison. Oklahoma is the only state in the country that currently requires its governor to approve all paroles. According to published reports, Gov. Mary Fallin has withdrawn her support for SQ 762 after her initial backing of the measure.

The provision applies to those crimes that are nonviolent 85 percent crimes, which requires the person serving time for those offenses to complete a minimum mandatory period of confinement before becoming eligible for parole, said District 27 District Attorney Brian Kuester.

“Personally, I don’t know that it is appropriate as the DA to try to influence how people vote, but I don’t lose my private right as a citizen to voice my personal opinion,” said District 27 District Attorney Brian Kuester. “We can turn to Title 21, Section 13 and 13.1 gives a list of 85 percent crimes. That list of crimes requires a defendant to serve 85 percent of that time. If it’s a 10-year sentence, they must serve 8.5 of that time. It doesn’t apply to that list of crimes. There are by far more crimes that are not listed as 85 percent crimes than there are listed. I think there are 20 crimes in Section 13.1 that are considered 85 percent crimes.”

Wilson said the governor’s involvement is primarily a logistical problem.

“Gov. Henry always wanted to review each parole recommendation along with the case file. Because he was so busy sometimes, the review didn’t happen for months. On average, these inmates cost $1,500 per month to keep in prison. Waiting an extra six month costs $9,000 each. Eight months costs $12,000,” he said. “These periods don’t make the citizens safer – just cost more money. As an example, saving six months for 5,000 prisoners saves the taxpayers $45 million.”

To qualify for parole, inmates must be low-risk, nonviolent offenders serving a sentence of fewer than five years or who have less than 11 months remaining on their sentence, said Brown.

“For violent offenses, the Pardon and Parole Board would continue to make recommendations to the governor, who would make the final decision. Oklahoma is the only state where the governor is involved in all paroles.”

Click here to get the entire Tahlequah Daily Press delivered everyday to your home or office. Code for E-EDITION TRIAL OR SUBSCRIBE Click here to get a free trial or to subscribe to the Tahlequah Daily Press electronic edition.

It's the ENTIRE newspaper (without the paper) for your computer, iPad or e-reader.

Text Only
Local News
  • svw-beagles-MAIN.jpg Going to the dogs

    Hounds at center stage for more than just Red Fern Festival

    Larry Blackman and Titus Blanket have always loved dogs, especially beagles. In their respective roles as president and vice president of the Cherokee County Beagle Club, they’ve turned that love into a passion.

    July 31, 2014 2 Photos

  • sanders-jeri.jpg Murder charge against mother of dead boy, 3, dismissed

    A first-degree murder charge has been dropped against a 37-year-old mother accused in the death of her 3-year-old son.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • supersalary.jpg Okla. superintendents paid comparatively well; teachers 46th lowest

    Administrators say they work year-round, have other duties

    As public education in Oklahoma continues to feel the pinch of a shrinking state budget, watchdog groups and district patrons across the state are asking whether superintendents are getting a disproportionate piece of the financial pie.

    July 31, 2014 2 Photos

  • Boards keep city, county afloat

    City and county officials rely on a variety of boards to oversee diverse and complex issues, and many of their members work behind the scenes to keep the wheels of government oiled and turning.
    The city of Tahlequah currently has 10 boards and three trust authorities. Cherokee County has two county-specific boards.

    July 31, 2014

  • HPWA contract raises gas to $3.99 a gallon

    The Hulbert Public Works Authority renewed its natural gas contract with Constellation Energy July 29, raising fuel prices to $3.99 per gallon for the next two years.

    July 31, 2014

  • Tourism Council OKs compensation

    The Tahlequah Area Tourism Council held its annual retreat Wednesday, and approved paying former Director Kate Kelly 100 hours of annual leave.

    July 31, 2014

  • rf-poker-run-main.jpg Poker run

    Fundraiser was in the cards for local philanthropic group

    It was perfect weather, with temperatures in the high 80s Saturday, as boaters filled their vessels with friends for a fun afternoon on Lake Tenkiller. A crowd gathered at Cookson Bend Marina, and folks lined up to support a local charity event.
    As fundraisers go, the Beta Sigma Phi Mu Omega Poker Run last Saturday could be considered huge success, as nearly $9,000 was collected.

    July 30, 2014 2 Photos

  • bilbrey-anthony.jpg Man arrested for blackmailing woman for sex

    Cherokee County sheriff’s deputies put a man behind bars Monday night after he allegedly tried to blackmail a woman by threatening to post nude photos of her on the Internet if she did not meet him for sex.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Peach_photo_2.jpg Peach crop lean, but fruit still available

    Summer is all about peaches in Porter – especially at Livesay Orchard.
    The Livesay Orchard is still busy a week after Porter’s annual peach festival. The orchard’s crop this year was cut in half from what had previously been expected, according to Kent Livesay, one of the owners of the orchard.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • jackson-jaymee.jpg Tot’s injuries prompt abuse charges for two local residents

    A Tahlequah couple was formally charged Tuesday with child neglect and child abuse after an 18-month-old girl was found with a number of injuries.

    July 30, 2014 2 Photos


Do you think "blue laws" related to Sunday alcohol sales in Oklahoma should be relaxed? Choose the option that most closely reflects your opinion.

Alcoholic drinks should be sold Sundays in restaurants and bars, and liquor stores should be open.
Alcoholic drinks should be sold Sundays in restaurants and bars only; liquor stores should stay closed.
Liquor stores should be open Sundays, but drinks should not be served anywhere on Sundays.
The law should remain as it is now; liquor stores should be closed, and drinks should be served on Sundays according to county option.
No alcohol should be sold or served publicly on Sundays.
     View Results
Tahlequah Daily Press Twitter
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Couple Channel Grief Into Soldiers' Retreat WWI Aviation Still Alive at Aerodrome in NY Raw: Rescuers at Taiwan Explosion Scene Raw: Woman Who Faced Death Over Faith in N.H. Clinton Before 9-11: Could Have Killed Bin Laden Netanyahu Vows to Destroy Hamas Tunnels Obama Slams Republicans Over Lawsuit House Leaders Trade Blame for Inaction Malaysian PM: Stop Fighting in Ukraine Cantor Warns of Instability, Terror in Farewell Ravens' Ray Rice: 'I Made a Huge Mistake' Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers Small Plane Crash in San Diego Parking Lot Busy Franco's Not Afraid of Overexposure Fighting Blocks Access to Ukraine Crash Site Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida Workers Dig for Survivors After India Landslide Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN