In The Know: Oklahoma voters strike down ‘penny sales tax’ for education

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Oklahoma voters strike down ‘penny sales tax’ for education: A state question dealing with a tax increase was a highly debated issue leading up to the polls. State Question 779 would implement a one percent sales tax to fund teacher pay raises and other educational causes. Supporters say the bill would generate more than $600 million for teacher pay raises and education. “Education is hurting. Our kids are hurting. They are the ones who are feeling the effects of this,” said OEA President Alicia Priest. Critics opposed raising taxes in the midst of a budget crisis, and also took issue with the bill’s nickname [KFOR]. Read OK Policy’s statement on the SQ 779 vote here. Full Oklahoma election results are available here.

Voters back criminal justice reform: Faced with some of the highest incarceration rates in the nation, Oklahoma voters were backing two ballot measures Tuesday designed to reduce the state’s overflowing prison population. In early returns, voters were approving State Question 780, 161,935 to 112,479, or 59.01 percent to 40.99 percent, and State Question 781, 157,544 to 114,496, or 57.91 percent to 42.09 percent. State Question 780 makes certain low-level crimes a misdemeanor instead of a felony [NewsOK].

Oklahomans vote against ‘Right to Farm’: You’ve probably seen signs around town dealing with the so-called ‘Right to Farm’ state question. State Question 777 would prevent lawmakers from passing legislation to regulate broad farming and ranching practices unless there is a compelling state interest. The so-called ‘Right to Farm’ bill would amend the constitution and create guaranteed rights for the agriculture industry. Critics of the bill say that it would benefit corporate farms the most, and would hinder local leaders’ abilities to protect their communities from harmful practices [KFOR].

Legislative Roundup: Republicans and incumbents win big: Oklahoma voters were not looking for much change in the state Legislature on Tuesday night. Sen. Dan Newberry, R-Tulsa, won his third and final term with 55.6 percent of the vote. He was challenged by former Sand Springs Superintendent Lloyd Snow, who is running as a Democrat, and independent Shawn. W. Ketcher, who is in the Oklahoma Air National Guard. Republican Dave Rader, former head football coach at the University of Tulsa, beat Democrat John Waldron, a world history and U.S. government teacher at Booker T. Washington High School [Tulsa World].

Alcohol ballot measure poised for victory: Oklahoma is poised to have wine and full-strength beer sales in grocery stores in 2018 as voters raised their glasses to State Question 792. Victory for the State Question 792 campaign does not ensure Oklahomans will be able to buy wine and full-strength beer in grocery stores. It’s almost certain that State Question 792 will draw a legal challenge from liquor store owners in the state [NewsOK].

Oklahomans vote against ‘Ten Commandments’ state question: Oklahomans had their chance to voice their opinion on a fight over a religious monument that went all the way to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. State Question 790 would remove a part of the Oklahoma Constitution that prohibits the use of state resources for religious purposes. Last year, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled the Ten Commandments Monument that was housed at the Oklahoma State Capitol violated the Constitution [KFOR].

Oklahomans Vote For Adding Death Penalty To State Constitution: Oklahoma voters decided in favor of State Question 776. The amendment will add the death penalty to Oklahoma’s state constitution, giving lawmakers the power to try out any legal method of execution that isn’t banned by the U.S. Constitution. Supporters of the amendment say there is a chance some drugs used in lethal injection, or lethal injection itself, will be ruled unconstitutional, and this would give Oklahoma options so lethal injection can continue to be used [NewsOn6].

Oklahoma judges, justices on track to retain seats: The five Oklahoma appellate judges and two state Supreme Court justices running to keep their seats this year were polling favorably for retention with 1,300 of 1,956 precincts reporting. All seven judges and justices were winning their efforts, with about 60 percent of voters favoring their retention in each race. In the Oklahoma Supreme Court, Justice James R. Winchester was ahead in his bid to hold onto his seat, with 498,333 votes, or 61.24 percent, for retention and 315,470 votes, or 38.76 percent, against [NewsOK].

These Races and Ballot Measures Will Help Determine the Future of Criminal Justice in America: Voters in a few specific states will have an opportunity to make specific and highly consequential decisions about the future of criminal justice in America through several hotly contested races and ballot initiatives. The results of these contests could set a precedent that reverberates around the country and charts the path forward for our criminal justice system. Or they could set us back decades. If you’re keen to take the pulse of America on this issue and see voters reject the politics of callous, retributive “law and order,” these are the contests to watch [Slate].

Oil and gas revenue up for first time in almost two years: State tax collections from oil and natural gas production are up for the first time in almost two years, Oklahoma Treasurer Ken Miller said Tuesday. October gross production collections of $35.1 million were above October 2015 collections by $2.9 million, or 8.9 percent. The last such increase was in December 2014, when receipts totaled $72.1 million. “It’s not yet time to sing ‘Happy Days Are Here Again,’ but this month’s gross production number is welcome news,” Miller said [NewsOK].

Voting across state going smoothly, despite small hiccups: Despite a few problems with ballot scanning machines, state officials said Tuesday voting is going smoothly. Voters in one Canadian County precinct reported that a machine at the Canadian Hills Nazarene Church, 11744 W Reno Ave, went down Tuesday morning and had to be reset. Wanda Armold, secretary to the Canadian County Election Board, confirmed a machine went down and workers followed procedure by having ballots placed into an emergency bin while the machine was reset [NewsOK].

America’s racial wealth gap was 397 years in the making; we shouldn’t take that long to close it: Chattel slavery of African-Americans lasted for 246 years, from when the first slaves were brought to Virginia in 1619 to when it was finally abolished in 1865. Another 99 years passed until the 1964 Civil Rights Act ended Jim Crow laws that had systematically denied equal opportunity to African-Americans. Even after the end of Jim Crow, discrimination against African-Americans has continued in numerous well-documented ways, and all people of color in the United States continue to lag well behind whites when it comes to income and wealth [OK Policy].

Incentive review doesn’t eliminate need for Oklahoma leadership: For the past several years, it’s been politically popular for lawmakers to suggest that Oklahoma government’s financial challenges could be easily solved by simply eliminating unproductive but expensive tax incentives. The initial work of the legislatively created Incentive Evaluation Commission suggests otherwise. In the group’s ongoing review of 11 incentives, full repeal of only two has been recommended. In short, there’s no magic bullet, no politically and economically pain-free way to generate new tax revenue [Editorial Board / NewsOK].

Oklahoma governor declares state of emergency after quake: A state of emergency has been declared for Payne County following a magnitude 5.0 earthquake near Cushing. Gov. Mary Fallin issued the declaration Tuesday after the Sunday night quake damaged numerous buildings in Cushing and was felt in several states. Fallin said in a news release that damage assessments are still underway. The declaration allows state agencies to make emergency purchases related to disaster relief and preparedness and is a first step toward seeking federal aid should it be necessary [Associated Press].

Quote of the Day

“We have a very serious problem when we continue to rank last among all the 50 states in the union on what we spend to educate our students. We cannot allow this result to stand. We cannot be last in the nation on what we spend on our children and education. We cannot secure our future by ignorance.”

-University of Oklahoma President David Boren, who led the campaign to pass SQ 779, the sales tax for education (Source). Read our statement on the failure of SQ 779 here.

Number of the Day


Total votes cast in the Presidential election in Oklahoma in 2016

Source: Oklahoma State Election Board

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How States Have Sabotaged Obamacare: This week, the government finally confirmed much of the bad news about Obamacare that the health-policy world had been expecting for months. After losing a good deal of money on customers who have turned out to be older and sicker than anticipated, insurance companies are pulling back from the individual market next year and significantly raising their prices: About one-fifth of the country will have just a single carrier to choose from on the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges, and average premiums before government subsidies are increasing 22 percent in the states where data is available [Slate].

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Ryan Gentzler worked at OK Policy from January 2016 until November 2022. He last served as the organization's Reserach Director and oversaw Open Justice Oklahoma. He began at OK Policy as an analyst focusing on criminal justice issues, including sentencing, incarceration, court fines and fees, and pretrial detention. Open Justice Oklahoma grew out of Ryan’s groundbreaking analysis of court records, which was used to inform critical policy debates. A native Nebraskan, he holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Oklahoma and a BA in Institutions and Policy from William Jewell College. He served as an OK Policy Research Fellow in 2014-2015.

One thought on “In The Know: Oklahoma voters strike down ‘penny sales tax’ for education

  1. The Powers That Be who supported Speaker Steele’s criminal justice efforts need to prep the groundwork for running him against the Mary Fallin-lite and the self-proclaimed archangel who head the Republican field for governor right now. OK might have a chance with Steele, and it would certainly have more sense in the office than with either of those two. You beat DAs on criminal justice issues, even minimal ones like those initiatives, you can beat two usual zany hairballs hawked up to perpetuate the decline.

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