Opinion: While it is a clear need to increase teacher pay in Oklahoma, SQ 779’s imposition of an additional 1% sales tax is a horrible method of funding those raises for a multitude of reasons that should be considered before approving this measure:
- This is a repressive tax. If passed, Oklahoma’s average combined state and local tax rate will be second highest in the US, at 9.85%, barely trailing Louisiana at 9.98%. The rate in over 200 cities in Oklahoma will be over 10%, including Glenpool 10.9%, Sapulpa 10.5%, Catoosa 10.5% Broken Arrow (Wagoner County portion) 10.35% and Skiatook 10.2%. Additionally, the combined sales tax burden would jump to 9.9% in Owasso, Sand Springs and Bixby, and Tulsa 9.52%.
- This will be a regressive, anti-family tax. Increasing sales taxes by $420 per household will hurt young families already struggling to raise children. Oklahoma is one of the few states that does not exempt groceries from sales tax. Having anti-family taxes is horrible public policy.
- This is a misguided tax. Approximately 60% of these funds would go to other things, including over $115 million to Higher Education bureaucrats with zero taxpayer accountability.
- This is an unnecessary tax.
- The increased tax levy will take in $615 million annually, 2.5 times the $245 million that is needed to give every teacher a $5,000 wage increase!
- More acceptable sources exist to fund teacher raises, including eliminating tax credits for wind producers, which alone would raise $88 million almost all of which is reaped by companies located outside Oklahoma.
- SQ 779 does not address inefficient administration of our schools. Over the past 20 years, while the number of students has increased 14%, the number of administrative personnel has increased 34%. Reducing this staffing level to be proportionate with student increases would fund $99 million for teachers’ raises.
- This tax should not be enshrined in the Constitution. The purpose of which is to define the basic principles of state governance. Once taxes are in the constitution, they are guaranteed to be difficult to ever correct or reverse.
Reasons for opposing SQ 779 transcend party and ideological lines. Democrats, Republicans, liberals and conservatives – all who care for protecting the less fortunate, supporting families, and eliminating wasteful government spending and unnecessary tax increases should agree that SQ779 is a horrible method for addressing teacher pay.
The choice is clear – a regressive, repressive tax burden that will harm cities, businesses, and worst of all families (who will bear the brunt of this burden) is not something that we should be proud of in Oklahoma. It must be rejected November 8.
Brent Watson is a certified public accountant living in Broken Arrow.