Group Says Proposal To Raise Sales Tax For Education Is Unconstitutional

Wednesday, November 11th 2015, 10:19 pm
By: News 9

A backlash is being felt over a potential sales tax increase aimed at raising millions of dollars for public education.

The plan is supported by University of Oklahoma president.

The "Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs Impact" said the wording in the proposal, backed by Boren to get money in state classrooms, is unconstitutional.

The initiative would raise $615 million for education through a penny sales tax increase.

“Let the people vote, that’s our message today,” OU President David Boren said in October.

Boren, putting his name and political capital behind "Oklahoma's Children, Our Future” and its initiative to deal with an education crisis.

“Forty-ninth in the nation on the amount of funding we get per student in the state of Oklahoma in our educational system; Oklahoma is better than that,” Boren said. “We shouldn’t wait until we’re 51st to take action.”

“Is a tax increase the right way to do that. Is that even necessary,” said Dave Bond, CEO of nonpartisan advocacy organization, OCPA Impact. “Why are we choosing that option.”

Bond said his group has an alternative.

“It’s going to be an alternative that does not involve raising Oklahoma sales tax burden to the highest in the country,” Bond said.

Under the proposal supported by Boren, if voters approve the sales tax increase next November, teachers would immediately get a $5,000 raise. The rest of that money would go to funding higher and early education and career tech. 

“The protest that we’re filing tomorrow (Thursday) with the state Supreme Court will point out some areas that we think it seems fairly obvious, are unconstitutional,” Bond said.

Bond believes the proposed plan will have families across the state paying the highest average total state and local sales tax in the country.

“I think Oklahomans across the state will benefit from seeing teachers getting a pay raise, and their taxes not going up at the same time,” Bond said.

Boren released a statement, saying, "I have confidence that the petition has been properly drawn by the legal team representing the grassroots committee. I think it is a shame that any organization would try to stop the people of Oklahoma from having the right to vote on such an important issue to the children of Oklahoma and our state's future."

A statement by the group leading the effort, also released a statement, saying “OCPA has never been a friend of public education. They have a history of denying there is even a teacher shortage. This challenge is nothing but a delay tactic, because OCPA knows if given the opportunity to vote on this measure, Oklahomans will support more investments in our schools and our children's futures.”  

OCPA Impact will announce an alternative plan Thursday morning.