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Education Sales Tax Proposal Survives Legal Challenge

Truman Elementary School library
Jacob McCleland

Oklahoma’s Supreme Court ruled that a proposal for a one-cent sales tax to fund education may go on the ballot for a statewide vote. The court’s decision on Tuesday struck down a challenge by OCPA Impact, who argued the initiative embraced more than one subject and therefore violated the state constitution.

The proposal contains seven sections. They include:

  1. The creation of the Oklahoma Education Improvement Fund.

  2. The levy of an additional one percent sales tax.

  3. The percentage distribution of those funds to common education, higher education, career and technology education, and early childhood education.

  4. A $5,000 raise to teacher salaries.

  5. The sales tax revenue shall supplement and not replace state funds for education, and that the Board of Equalization will “examine and investigate appropriations from the Fund each year.”

  6. The amendment’s effective date of July 1, if passed by voters.

  7. A severability clause.

In a split 6 to 3 decision, the court decided the “proposed initiative petition clearly constitutes a single scheme to presented to voters, and each section is germane to creating and implementing the Oklahoma Education Fund.” The court determined the proposal’s sections interlock, and that the drafters of the petition deem each of the above components is needed to achieve “one general design,” and “the proposal stands or falls as a whole.”

The court reasons that the Oklahoma constitution’s “one general subject rule” is to avoid misleading the public or concealing the effect of a proposal. It also prevent the practice of “logrolling,” or combining multiple unrelated proposals. The court found the petition does not include logrolling and consists of one scheme that can go before voters.

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