Oklahoma Policy Institute released the following statement on the proposal for a ballot initiative that would increase funding for common and higher education through a 1 cent increase in the state sales tax:
Our public schools and colleges are the critical cornerstones on which Oklahoma must build a more prosperous and equitable state. Oklahoma’s education system is in crisis as a direct result of more than a decade of irresponsible tax cuts and tax breaks, including the choice to allow yet another cut to the top income tax rate this year despite massive budget shortfalls. The Oklahoma Legislature has proven unwilling and unable to address this funding crisis. It has become undeniable that an initiative petition may be the only way for Oklahoma to recruit and retain enough qualified teachers and provide the high-quality education that our students deserve.
This education initiative is sorely needed, but the decision to fund it exclusively through a sales tax increase means that it will most hurt the pocketbooks of those families who are already struggling and who have received little or no benefit from the past decade’s repeated cuts to the top income tax bracket. A sales tax increase also risks encouraging more people to shop online, further eroding the sales tax base on which the state, cities, and counties depend.
This initiative can help Oklahoma’s dire education funding crisis, but the crisis of our unfair and inadequate tax system still waits for a response. Oklahomans urgently need real tax reform to create a tax system that does not put the greatest burden on those who can least afford it and that collects enough to meet critical needs of Oklahoma families — not just for education but also health care, safe communities, and other public services to ensure a stable economy and strong quality of life.