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Measure will be costly unfunded mandate

BY STATE REP. LESLIE OSBORN Published: October 3, 2009
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In November 2010, Oklahoma voters will decide the fate of State Question 744, which would tie Oklahoma’s common education funding to a regional average set by lawmakers in surrounding states.

If approved, SQ 744 would require spending at least $850 million more for common education per year, on top of the $2.5 billion provided this year.

Because the ballot question doesn’t explain how to provide that additional funding, I requested a legislative study to explore the issue in depth. If SQ 744 is approved, an analysis by nonpartisan fiscal staff shows it will require increasing the income tax rate 34 percent or the state sales tax rate 38 percent.

The only other option is to cut spending across the board in all areas of government, except for common education, by as much as 20 percent.

As a small-government conservative, I am certainly not opposed to spending cuts, but I also believe government should do a few core jobs and do them well. Unfortunately, SQ 744 could imperil even the most basic functions of government.

Worse yet, SQ 744 would provide no clear benefit to school children. The ballot question does not specify how the extra money will be used. When Kansas attempted a similar experiment, it nearly doubled spending but saw little improvement in student performance.