Thursday, October 28, 2010

Oklahoma State Question 744 -- Vote NO! Message from Frank Keating and Cong Tom Cole (R-OK)

There is a statement from current Democrat Governor Brad Henry along with emails from former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating and my Congressman from the 4th District Tom Cole opposing State Question 744. This is one State Question that has brought both political parties together. Democrat Governor Brad Henry and a group of Democrats have joined former Governor Frank Keating, Cong Cole, and a host of Republicans opposing this bill. It is nothing more than a power grab by union teachers. When you get Brad Henry speaking out against this bill when his wife is a teacher, then you know how bad this bill is that is on the ballot.

The ads for SQ 744 make your blood boil if you are any type of fiscal conservative and value education. They are the most despicable ads on the radio and we have to question if they are from the National Teacher's Union because we haven't heard ads like that on a State Question since we passed Right to Work and the vast majority of money opposing it came from out of state along with the ads.

Oklahomans didn't listen to the national people on Right to Work and would bet we are going to turn down SQ 744 which has no bi-partisan support for SQ 744 but a lot of bi-partisan support to Just Say NO to SQ 744!

Statement from Governor Brad Henry:
"If State Question 744 passes, it will absolutely devastate the budgets of all other critical areas in state government, and we just simply cannot allow that to happen."

Gov. Brad Henry
Honorary Chair
One Oklahoma Coalition
Email from Former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating:

Grassroots Supporter,

Included on the November ballot will be State Question 744, which is a reckless tax-and-spend proposal designed to feather the nests of the education establishment, without doing anything to bring much needed reforms to our schools. This proposal focuses exclusively on money, and not on student achievement.

And it’s not just conservatives who realize we have to quit putting money into our education system. Late last month while appearing on NBC, President Barrack Obama said, "We can't spend our way out of it. I think that when you look at the statistics, the fact is that our per-pupil spending has gone up during the last couple of decades even as results have gone down.”

By its own terms this is exactly what SQ 744 aims to accomplish – massive multi-billion dollar spending based on per-pupil expenditures with NO reforms, NO accountability and NO funding mechanism.

SQ 744 would provide billions of dollars in new spending with no requirements or direction on how these funds should be spent. In fact, every penny of SQ 744 could be spent on superintendent salaries and still meet the requirements of the measure. Just read the ballot – it expressly states this money can be spent on “non-instruction services.” That’s code for items that don’t help our children learn.

There is absolutely nothing in this state question addressing academic rigor, student achievement, teacher performance or anything else to improve our schools. It is solely money.

And this money has to come from somewhere -- probably from you and me. When fully implemented, SQ 744 would require an increase of $1,200 per year in taxes for a family of four. That could be in massive property tax increases, a 34 percent increase in state sales taxes, or a 38 percent increase in the state income tax. And that is if the cost is at the lowest estimates being given. Those supporting this ill-conceived proposal have advocated getting rid of homestead property tax exemptions, taxing utility bills and even taxing all retirement benefits, such as Social Security.

If budget cuts alone funded this huge transfer of taxpayer resources to public schools, Oklahoma would be required (at a minimum) to close eight prisons and release 8,400 criminals, lay off more than 125 state troopers, face sizable college tuition increases, cut huge sums from law enforcement, public safety and highways and lose $343 million in federal health care matching dollars. In other words, it would cut more than 20% of all state government outside of common education. Something we just can’t afford.

Incredibly, this union power grab (the National Education Association has already pledged to spend more than $3 million to force this on Oklahomans) is silent on academic performance, efficiency, teacher quality and academic results.

When it comes to State Question 744, join me in rejecting this liberal tax-and-spend agenda for Oklahoma by voting no. This reckless philosophy is one that even President Obama and his Washington cronies admit just won’t work.

Keating, former Oklahoma governor, is a member of the One Oklahoma Coalition, which opposes SQ 744.

Frank Keating

Press Release from Congressman Tom Cole

State Question 744 is Wrong SolutionBy: Congressman Tom Cole

With the pivotal November 2 elections fast approaching, partisan conflicts are on display in political ads, debates and news reports across the country. However, there is remarkable consensus in Oklahoma among lawmakers and candidates from both parties regarding State Question 744.

SQ 744 epitomizes the "throw money at the problem" mentality. This misguided initiative would amend the state constitution to require that Oklahoma's K-12 education spending equal the per-student average of our six neighboring states. It would put in place no reforms and no new oversight or accountability. Under SQ 744, the answer to Oklahoma's education challenges begins and ends with increased spending.

Political history is replete with examples of the futility of this approach. President Obama's failed stimulus package is just one of the most recent. Supporters of this $787 billion monstrosity promised that the bill would create jobs and keep the unemployment rate below 8 percent. We're now entering our 17th straight month of 9 percent or higher unemployment. A new Joint Economic Committee report reveals that the nation's 20 largest metropolitan areas have lost 557,000 private sector jobs since the stimulus became law, while the federal workforce has grown by 42,700 jobs in those areas. This fact demonstrates that increased spending is reliably effective in achieving only one outcome: the growth of government. When it comes to producing concrete results like new jobs or improved educational achievement, the tax-and-spend philosophy has long since been proven a failure.

While SQ 744 would likely have little positive impact on learning, it would certainly have a disastrous effect on the state budget. Besides being devoid of reform, the measure is also lacking in any funding mechanism. Absent a new revenue stream, deep cuts to other vital government services would be required to fund the new education spending, which the Oklahoma Policy Institute projects would be nearly $1.7 billion over the first three years. With a total state budget of $6.7 billion in fiscal year 2011, $1.7 billion would represent an enormous portion of state spending. Diverting a sum of this size to K-12 education cannot be accomplished without major disruptions to other state functions like corrections, transportation and higher education.

The state budget is already strained, and it is only by virtue of responsible management and tough choices by the state government that Oklahoma has fared so well in the recession. SQ 744 would place an unacceptable burden on state finances that would significantly compromise Oklahoma's capacity to recover from continuing economic challenges. President Obama's policies are damaging enough to state budgets without adding to the burden with new mandatory state spending.

No one disputes the importance of education to Oklahoma's future. However, SQ 744 is simply the wrong approach.

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