Our statement on the proposed ballot initiative to fund education with 1 cent sales tax increase

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.


Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

21 thoughts on “Our statement on the proposed ballot initiative to fund education with 1 cent sales tax increase

  1. I do not support a sales tax to fund public schools. Public schools should be paid for through regular budget appropriation. Teachers should be a part of a strong Teacher’s Union.
    If Oklahomans do not support public school education, they will be supporting the “school to prison pipeline”. Higher drop outs and unskilled graduates will mean more unemployment, more dependency on public funds and more crime.

  2. I do not support a sales tax to fund public schools. President Boren could have helped years ago by halting the renewal of the extended tax incentives GIVEN to the oil and gas industries FROM Oklahoma tax payers. Instead he gives the citizens of Oklahoma this proposal? I’m insulted.

  3. If this proposal was for a 1% income tax increase for the same purpose, it would be a great idea. I would actively campaign for more signatures

  4. The legislature and other powers that be continue to propose regressive policies as a kneejerk reaction as they have no concept of true quality strategic planning; thus they target “solutions” hurting all of the state’s most vulnerable citizens, elderly, disabled, poor….

  5. Desperate times require creativity and out of the box thinking. Not like the Oklahoma Legislature is going to address the challenge with creativity and/or out of the box thinking. Bring on the 1 cent sale tax increase; and starting voting for legislatures that have critical thinking skills.

  6. I can not support a tax that further burdens our states poor and working class members further than they are now. Yes, we desperately need more funding for education, but we also need more funding for mental health and other state services.
    I would suggest that we create one or more new income tax brackets, say at the $100,000 level and $1 million level. The first would pay 6% for income at or above $100,000, the second 7.5% for income at or above $1 million.
    This is just a general idea not a specific proposal. It would raise more funds and place the new revenue on those best able to afford it.

  7. An increase in sales tax that will make our cities’ sales taxes among the top in the nation will drive sales to the Internet and to shopping venues across state lines and away from communities near state borders, threatening local Main Street businesses. It would also compete with OKC’s MAPS efforts, and Tulsa’s Vision2025 package and sales tax effort to fund public safety officers. I fear that this sales tax, if passed, would not only threaten these valuable efforts, but also set a low floor for any future funding as school populations and needs grow. The legislature will point to this as an excuse to limit appropriations and never raise them again. Remember the lottery that was to fund schools? Why give the legislature a pass on proper funding of our state’s core needs? We need comprehensive budget reform, not this destructive sales tax that hurts more than it helps.

  8. Another increase in an already regressive sales tax is only postponing a long-term solution to funding education as well as other funding needs our state has. Now is the time to begin reducing the large subsidies Oklahoma gives to industries who really don’t need them such as the gas and oil industries. I single those two out but there are others who continue to draw from this well. Now is the time to rectify this situation before our state goes broke.

  9. In my opinion it is unwise to fund public education using sales tax. Commenters here have already pointed out the major issues such as increasing the burden for average and lower income families, along with the negative effects of pushing Oklahoma cities -who are forced to rely solely on sales tax revenue- into further competition for precious pennies on the dollar.
    I’m told by the experts that folks generally don’t consider sales tax as a factor in making purchasing decisions for most items or services, but then again higher rates aren’t likely to move that needle in the right direction for Oklahoma retailers.
    I might add that another element could be the possible fact that lower income families typically do not utilize online (effectively tax-free) consumer shopping services such as Amazon like middle-to-higher income families do. If there’s any truth to my arguably unqualified logic there, then even more of the burden is placed upon those who can least afford it.
    In a state that is so geographically and economically diverse, we must maintain the ability for rural communities, along with others, to provide quality public education. I’m sure that to proponents of this measure the math is simple and that collecting “lots of pennies” in and around, say, Tulsa makes more pennies available for Hollis schools. But what is the true cost?
    In terms of opportunity-loss for cities and municipalities to realize the revenues they so desperately need in order to maintain services and deal with decaying infrastructures, adding to the burden of those who are forced to truly count pennies, and continuing to allow seemingly countless loopholes and options for corporations and individuals who have the most, I don’t think we can afford it. There has to be a better, smarter way… ‘Cuz this ain’t it.

  10. A sales tax for education is not the way to fix the education funding issue. The State legislators need to fix the real issues that are causing this and the other state financial issues. The issues are right in front of them, all they need to do is address them. The only bills filed and discussed this legislative session should only deal with the financial problems of the state. All other bills should take a back seat and not even be discussed.

  11. Of course the high and might REGENTS of HIGHER EDUCATION promotes a sales tax increase. Ever wonder what these glorified college “kings” actually do to earn their sizable salaries and HUGE chunk of our tax dollars. Higher education? What good is higher education to a population with a fourth grade reading level?

  12. I agree that a fiscally responsible allocation of funds to crucial services is ideal. Doing away with outsized, outdated subsidies that are no longer working for us; adding a top tax bracket; raise transportation taxes while gas prices are low–all of these would help us get on the right track. Unfortunately we have shown that we are unable to elect a legislature who will do this. Are we going to vote differently in November? Maybe, but lets vote for the penny sales tax, just in case. Desperate times call for desperate measures and public education can’t afford to wait for us to find politicians who can rise above politics and do the right thing for Tulsa.

  13. I think the only way Oklahoman’s will vote in an education tax increase, would be if the tax was used to get Oklahoma schools out of the Federal System. Use it in lieu of Federal funds. Then Oklahoma can run our schools they way we want.

  14. I am a beneficiary of Oklahoma’s higher education and support education in general. Not by passing a 1 cent sales tax that unfairly burdens the lower income brackets. The legislature needs to do the job for which they were elected or we need to elect women and men who will do the job. How does the increased income and program costs continue to be funded after the tax ends?

  15. Is it just me, or do 90 percent of these comments sound like astroturf? They read like press release statements. They have the same tone and length and are impeccably edited. Real Internet comments are much more diverse and sloppy. Good try OCPA Impact, but please stop playing dirty and dishonest tricks on your fellow Oklahomans. It’s why people don’t trust what you say. Take the high road, please.

  16. Taxation hated by the many but always levied on the poor. The concept of “we the people” is gone and replaced by fear and hatred of a system that is envied by much of the world. The people of Oklahoma say they have a fighting spirit and willingness to help their neighbor. Yet these same people, by their vote, have said they do not trust these same neighbors to represent them in the legislature on tax matters by passing an absurd Constitional amendment.

    The people will be taxed whether directly or indirectly. If the legislature does not provide adequate funds for education teachers will leave and students will receive interior instructions which in turn means inferior paying jobs, out migration of sons and daughters and elders without children nearby to help care for them as they age. The indirect tax is greater and more painful.

    The indirect tax for not funding infrastructure repair is even more costly and cannot be patched by a state sales tax. Bridges can collapse. Roads in disrepair cause vehicular damage and even accidents. To rebuild a suspension, repair a damaged strut, replace a broken wheel and blown tire and align the suspension can cost well in excess of $1000. This is an indirect tax of failed government.

    It is time to fix the system so it works not put a regressive, nasty sales tax bandage on it. We should demand better of ourselves. Right now we are getting a full measure of what the people have voted to put in place. I am not for patches I am for responsible government borne by democracy.

  17. The sales tax does fall unfairly on the least able to pay. I hate it with a passion. However, our governor and legislature have abdicated their responsibility to provide for the education of the children of Oklahoma. And since our lawmakers have not filled their responsibility, it’s time for the people to “get out the pitchforks” and take action.

    Once we elect lawmakers who will govern responsibly, the tax structure can be adjusted to make it more equitable. For now, in the absence of any viable plans at the state capitol, the people must get the job done the best way it can.

  18. These comments sound similar because people on both sides of the aisle are agreeing this is a horrible idea. We should not be in this position. Legislators should have funded education, and reductions in Income Tax have crippled our state. Because our leadership at the Capitol has been more interested in petty politics than governing, we are faced with this lose-lose situation. What we need is for Republicans, like myself, to vote no on this state question, and then follow up with our elected officials demanding they make education a priority in Oklahoma. I do want to add that I have high hopes for our NEW leadership at the Capitol, and I believe education can be fixed the right way.

  19. Either we have a one percent sales tax increase to fund education or we will have no new funding for education at all.

    The income tax proposal makes no sense since the legislature is trying to do away with the income tax. Property tax is not going to work because the property tax system is in great disarray. This is our current reality.

    Anyone who things the legislature will roll back any of the income tax cuts or even eliminate the next tax cut trigger please raise your hand.

    It is either the sales tax or a continued disaster in Oklahoma Public Ed.

    These comments sound similar, but I suspect it has to do with talking points emailed out by some organization or other. What they mean is there is nothing to be done about the education disaster in Oklahoma because no other option will pass.

    If we are that concerned about the poor lets give back the EITC we cut this year…..

  20. I would like to see the purchase of food excluded from sales tax and the purchase of financial instruments (stocks, bonds, derivatives…) INCLUDED in sales tax.

  21. We have supported our local school district bond proposals but we’re not supporting this proposal. The state has more school districts than it needs and these need to be consolidated. The savings generated by reducing the number of school superintendents and wasted bond fees would pay for teacher salary raises. Though the supporters promise better educational outcomes, it guarantees nothing with respect to secondary education performance outcomes for teachers or students. Our city needs to retain its capability to use the sales tax to improved and maintain city services.

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