Oklahoma Judges Consider School Funding Sales Tax Ballot Question

Published January 9, 2016

The Oklahoma State Supreme Court is deciding the fate of a proposed ballot amendment that would hike the state’s sales tax to fund budget increases for government primary and secondary schools and state higher education.

The ballot amendment, championed by University of Oklahoma President David Boren, would make Oklahoma taxpayers’ combined local and state sales tax burden the heaviest in the nation.

Taxed Out

Dave Bond, president of OCPA Impact, a nonpartisan issue advocacy organization that has partnered with the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, says Oklahoma’s high tax rates are already sending people packing for other states.

“Oklahoma already has the sixth-highest combined state-and-local sales tax burden in the nation,” Bond said. “Of the states that are currently higher, two charge no personal income tax, and two others charge lower income taxes than Oklahoma.

“Year after year, Oklahoma is losing taxpayers and personal income to states with lower tax burdens, particularly Texas,” Bond said. “Even with its higher average property taxes, Texas still taxes its citizens less across the board, when all taxes are considered, compared to Oklahoma. Increasing Oklahoma’s sales tax would put our state at even more of a competitive disadvantage.”


Flush with Cash

John Tidwell, executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of Americans for Prosperity, says the state’s schools are already well-funded.

“The reality of the budget is this: Oklahoma public school spending has reached an all-time high,” Tidwell said. “Revenues just last year were close to $5.5 billion. But how can that be? How can you have record revenues and a terrible record when it comes to Oklahoma teachers’ salaries?

“Well, that’s simple: Oklahoma politics,” Tidwell said. “With more than 500 individual school districts, each with its own school board, superintendent, and administration, it’s reached a critical level of reckless spending.”

‘Swelled the Ranks’

Tidwell says state schools spend taxpayers’ money on creating positions for administrators and executives when the funds should be used for paying teachers who actually educate children.

“Not only has the budget soared, but they’ve swelled the ranks when it comes to administrative positions in public education,” Tidwell said. “Over the past decade, non-teacher positions grew 33 percent, yet [teaching] positions only grew 11 percent to address a 14 percent enrollment increase. Wouldn’t you have a hard time accepting that if you were an Oklahoma teacher and you knew that administrative jobs had grown more than three times over your classroom colleagues?”

Michael Bates ([email protected]) writes from Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Internet Info:

Jeffrey P. Thompson and Shawn M. Rohlin, “The Effect of Sales Taxes on Employment: New Evidence From Cross-Border Panel Data Analysis,” National Tax Journal: https://www.heartland.org/policy-documents/effect-sales-taxes-employment-new-evidence-cross-border-panel-data-analysis/