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SQ 640 limits tax increases, not tax reductions

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News items and scholarly articles from 1992 and since show that State Question 640 was put on the ballot and passed by Oklahoma voters in 1992 to make it harder for the state Legislature to increase taxes — not to make it more difficult to reduce taxes, despite recent arguments before the Oklahoma Supreme Court to the contrary.

The legal documents related to Initiative Petition 348, which put SQ 640 on the ballot, tell that the organization driving the effort was S.T.O.P. New Taxes.

This Daily Oklahoman story from Feb 9, 1992 — one month before voters would go to to the polls and approve SQ 640 — makes plain that the proposal limits the Legislature’s ability to increase taxes.

This Tulsa World story from March 3, 1992 — one week before the SQ 640 vote — makes clear the ballot measure “would limit the Oklahoma Legislature’s ability to increase taxes”.

Another Daily Oklahoman story — from the day following the vote on SQ 640 — points out that passage of the measure made Oklahoma “one of the most restrictive states on tax hikes.”

A 1996 article featured comments by those in Oklahoma’s education community who saw SQ 640 as a detriment to the state’s ability to fund education because it limited the ability to increase tax revenue — not as a protection, so to speak, against future tax reductions; a protection which would, the logic suggests, make it harder to lose tax revenue.

In a piece by two respected, in-state, PhD. economists, Robert Reed and Larkin Warner, both Reed, arguing for the merits of SQ 640, and Warner, arguing against it, are clear that the measure was intended to make it more difficult to increase taxes.

In another academic article, this time discussing Oklahoma public education’s aid formula, the authors say SQ 640 makes it harder to increase taxation in the state.

A 2001 study by two Univ. of Oklahoma professors implied, since SQ 640 made it nearly impossible to increase taxes, lawmakers instead were increasing fees.

With all this in mind, any actions by the state Supreme Court to apply SQ 640’s provisions to tax reduction measures — thereby jeopardizing a host of tax reductions enacted in Oklahoma over the past decade, including tax relief for families, wage earners, military veterans (both disabled and non-disabled), public- and private-sector retirees, and employers — would be truly alarming.