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Conservative Group Challenges Boren's Sales Tax Hike For Education Funding

Nov 13, 2015

A conservative advocacy group is challenging University of Oklahoma President David Boren's plan to fund education through a one cent sales tax increase.

Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs Impact filed a formal protest with the State Supreme Court Thursday, saying Boren's petition is unconstitutional.

OCPA Impact is accusing Boren's group of logrolling four different subjects in to one petition-- and says that violates the Oklahoma Constitution's single subject rule.

"The concept of logrolling usually involves taking something that people like and support and lumping it together with stuff that, on its own, they might not feel so strongly about," OCPA Impact CEO Dave Bond said.

Boren's group wants voters to approve the penny tax to fund $5,000 raises for teachers, higher education, and the CareerTech system.

Bond says there are other issues within the petition that Oklahomans should vote on separately.

In the document, OCPA Impact says the sales tax hike’s general subject involves the teacher pay raises, but 40 percent of the money from the sales tax hike would go toward unrelated uses. It also says the initiative deals with a sales tax proposal, and changes the state appropriations process.

The advocacy group put forth its own $617.3 million proposal yesterday that involved cuts to state agencies and services, as well as selling OU’s monastery in Italy, and auctioning a multimillion dollar collection of French Impressionist art given to the university by the Weitzenhoffer family.

The executive director of Stand for Children Oklahoma, a group that’s pushing the sales tax proposal, told Oklahoma Watch the challenge is nothing more than a delay tactic.

According to Boren, his proposal would raise about $600 million per year for education. About 70 percent of the funds would support pay raises for teachers in Oklahoma. Another 19 percent would go to higher education to address the rising tuition costs. Additionally, 8 percent would go to the state Department of Education to award grants for low-income children, and the remaining 3 percent would be allocated to the CareerTech system.

Bond said he agrees that Oklahoma teachers need pay raises, but called Boren’s petition an “unconstitutional money grab.” 

The state Supreme Court can either take up this protest, or reject it. If it’s rejected, the Court still has to approve Boren’s petition. Once it is approved the group has 90 days to collect enough signatures to get it on the November 2016 ballot.