The State Chamber of Commerce is running an almost half-million-dollar campaign in support of a proposed constitutional amendment that would exempt all intangible property from taxation.
“This was our number-one legislative priority in the last session,” said Fred Morgan, president of the state chamber, a lobbying group for Oklahoma businesses. “We've already started TV ads and we'll be using multimedia-type approaches.”
The state chamber itself has donated $375,000 to the Yes On 766 committee. Other big contributors to the effort include $50,000 from the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, $20,000 from Verizon, $10,000 from Independent Insurance Agents of Oklahoma and $5,000 from BOK Financial Corporation PAC.
If voters approve State Question 766 on Nov. 6, businesses and individuals will be able to deduct intangible property from their property taxes.
Proponents say a yes vote will block one of the largest tax increases in history.
Opponents of the amendment quote an estimate from the Oklahoma Tax Commission that the new exemption could cost the state $50 million in lost revenue.
The Oklahoma Constitution already exempts intangible property from property taxes, but narrowly defines the concept in a 1968 state question as cash on hand, gold, silver, bank drafts, certified checks, bank deposits, accounts and bills receivable, brokerage accounts, bonds, stocks and a variety of other specifically enumerated intangible assets.
The state chamber is also running a much smaller campaign in support of a state question, SQ 764, that would allow the Oklahoma Water Resources Board to have a $300 million bonding capacity.
Morgan said the bonding capacity would be used to back low-interest loans given to municipalities to fund projects improving water infrastructure like drinking water treatment or sewage processing.
“These communities, many of them cannot finance the improvements to their infrastructure without paying higher interest rates,” he said. “It's really a way to save the taxpayers money by securing a lower interest rate.”
The Yes on SQ 764 campaign has raised $48,000 as of the last campaign report in September. The largest donations include $15,000 from BancFirst Corporation, $10,000 from The Chickasaw Nation, $5,000 from BOK Financial Corporation PAC, and $5,000 from Rick Smith with Municipal Finance Services Inc.
Morgan said it's hard to run a statewide campaign on such a small ballot, but they will work on educating voters about the issue and what it could mean for local municipalities.
Ponca City Mayor Homer Nicholson is also urging voters to approve the bonding capacity for the OWRB.
“This is a state question that there is a 99.9 percent it will never cost anybody a penny unless a city defaults on a loan,” he said. “It's important the public understands this is a no-brainer.”
Nicholson said several water and sewer line improvement projects need to be done in Ponca City that would benefit from this financing option.
Polls have been conducted on both issues, Morgan said, and they generally have shown voters are favorable to learning more about the issues and approving them.
Other controversial ballot measures have yet to have anyone formally organize around the issue.
Both the NAACP and the ACLU are opposed to a state question that would prohibit the use of affirmative action in all state hiring and contracting, but neither has established a campaign fund for opposition to State Question 759.