Don’t be fooled: SQ 779 much more than “only a penny”
by Dave Bond
Public school teachers in Oklahoma urgently need a pay raise. But there’s zero need for State Question 779, which would raise Oklahoma’s sales tax burden to the highest in the nation.
Teachers are leaving Oklahoma classrooms. Children are disadvantaged. Parents are worried.
But let’s be clear: On November 8, with SQ 779, Oklahomans aren’t voting on whether public school teachers need a raise.
With SQ 779, we’re voting on whether working Oklahoma families should be forced to pay the nation’s highest sales tax burden in order to fund teacher pay raises and more new spending.
Please don’t be fooled: SQ 779 is much, much more than “only a penny.”
In fact, according to its supporters, SQ 779 would increases taxes by a total of $615 million. That’s an average tax increase of over $420 per household statewide each year.
When added to existing state, county and municipal sales taxes, SQ 779 would raise Oklahoma’s average combined state-and-local sales tax burden to 9.8%, the highest permanent rate of any U.S. state. Oklahoma already has the sixth highest sales tax burden.
In many communities, SQ 779 would cause the sales tax burden to reach double digits.
The combined sales tax burden would hit 10% in Lawton, Ardmore, Guthrie, Chickasha and Weatherford, to name a few.
It would jump to 10.1% in Muskogee and Collinsville, 10.2% in Skiatook, 10.3% in Claremore, Grove and Ada, and 10.5% in Tahlequah, Sapulpa, Miami, Vinita, Catoosa and Chandler.
It would rise to 10.7% in Pryor, Okmulgee, Henryetta and Stilwell, 10.9% in Glenpool, and 11.5% in Checotah.
SQ 779 would be a tax increase on everyday purchases, including groceries, clothing, tools, home supplies and more, for low- and middle- income families.
Adding insult to injury, over 60% of the money from SQ 779’s tax increase would be spent on things besides pay raises for classroom teachers.
You read that correctly.
A $5,000 raise for every public school classroom teacher statewide costs $245 million. And remember, proponents of SQ 779 project the tax increase will raise $615 annually.
Where will the extra $370 million go? In lump sums to bureaucrats in Higher Education, Career Tech, school districts and the State Department of Education, with little direction on how to spend it.
TV commercials say money from SQ 779 will be used to make college more affordable. But there is nothing – nothing – in SQ 779’s fine print requiring this.
Finally, it’s completely unnecessary to raise taxes to increase teacher pay.
Since last fall, our organization has offered an alternative plan to fund teacher pay raises of $5,000 or better without raising taxes or restricting core government services.
At www.StopHigherTaxesOK.com, we offer a menu of $753 million in inefficient or nonessential state government spending that could be redirected to teacher salaries.
Oklahoma needs a teacher pay raise, not a tax increase. SQ 779 is a major tax increase that will unnecessarily burden working Oklahoma families of all incomes.
Bond is CEO of OCPA Impact, a nonpartisan, statewide advocacy group based in Oklahoma City.