THE addition of the Oklahoma Policy Institute to the ranks of those opposed to the most important state question on the November ballot is the strongest sign yet of just how ill-conceived the proposal is.
State Question 744 would require that common education spending in Oklahoma be tied to the regional per-pupil average. Advocated by the Oklahoma Education Association, which sees more money as the solution to every problem, SQ 744 doesn't declare a funding source. So, the money needed to meet this nebulous threshold would have to come from other state agencies.
This is why a number of parties that rely on state funding have come out against passage of SQ 744. Among them are the One Oklahoma Coalition, which comprises not just state employees but also chambers of commerce and various business groups. The local American Federation of Teachers even thinks SQ 744 is a bad idea. So does Gov. Brad Henry, a staunch proponent of education and teachers throughout his time in office.
The Oklahoma Policy Institute's rejection of SQ 744, announced last week in a position paper and in an op-ed by its director, David Blatt, is another blow.
The OPI, a liberal-leaning think tank, regularly fights the good fight on behalf of tax consumers. Blatt has written in opposition to tax cuts that have been approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature in recent years. He has worried about what effect state budget cuts will have on those who rely on state services, particularly the disadvantaged.
But he's more than an ideologue — Blatt draws his conclusions after crunching the numbers every which way. And with SQ 744, he says, the math is scary.
"We calculate that SQ 744 would require nearly $1.7 billion in increased funding exclusively for common education over its three-year phase-in period, at a time when the state must replace more than $1 billion in nonrecurring revenue in its base budget," Blatt wrote. "Since the measure doesn't provide for any new revenues, passage of SQ 744 would ensure a severe funding shortage for all other functions of government that could be addressed only by deep budget cuts or substantial tax increases."