Troopers, FOP join coalition opposing State Question 744

CapitolBeatOK Staff Report

Published: 28-Oct-2010

The Oklahoma State Troopers Association and the Oklahoma Fraternal Order of Police held a press conference today (Thursday, October 28) in opposition to State Question 744.

Both groups are opposed to the measure citing strong concerns that S.Q.  744, if passed, will cut funding for state prisons, reduce the number of law enforcement serving as well as funding for the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training, known as CLEET.

Ron Bartmier with the Oklahoma Fraternal Order of Police said, “In order for Oklahoma police officers to properly protect communities across this state, we must have adequate resources.  State Question 744 would devastate law enforcement budgets if it passes and likely result in reduced funding for training and the number of officers statewide.”

Bartmier continued, “It is also no secret how tough things have been for correctional facilities’ budgets and correctional workers due to lack of funding.  If SQ 744 passes I believe we are looking at catastrophic consequences for public safety.”

At a state house budget committee hearing last fall, which was convened to estimate the financial impact of S.Q. 744, multiple state agencies including the department of corrections testified to what a 20% budget cut would mean to their department.  For corrections it would eliminate $101 million in state funds.

Bruce Robertson with the State Troopers Association said, “There is no doubt funding for law enforcement across the state would be negatively impacted with the passage of State Question 744.  State troopers and local law enforcement cannot afford any cuts as it is.  At a time of increase drug trafficking and other public safety needs, the last thing we should do as a state is reducing the number of troopers on our highways.”

Jeff Wilson, campaign manager for the One Oklahoma Coalition, further cited comments made by corrections officials at the budget hearing which indicated the impact could also lead to the closure of up to nine state prison facilities, which in turn could lead to the release of as many as 8,400 criminals from both minimum and medium security facilities. 

In a statement sent to CapitolBeatOK, the coalition asserted, “The cuts would likely be needed to pay for the estimated $1 billion increase in spending that would be required under S.Q. 744 for common education.  SQ 744 would be a constitutionally mandated government spending increase that would require the state to spend at minimum the six-state regional average on per-pupil spending.  The measure contains no oversight or reforms of how these funds would be spent.

“Additionally, the blank check provided by S.Q. 744 does not identify a funding mechanism to pay for the increased spending.  Therefore, state lawmakers would likely have to look at income or sales tax increases, possibly as high as 40 percent, or budget reductions in other agencies as high as 20 percent across-the-board.”