The newest writer for the Sooner Politics citizen journalism project is Tim Bakamjian. His assessment of the case against the SQ799 case is strong and multi dimensional. We are highlighting his most recent article just in time for voters who are already going to the polling stations.
Here is the text of the proposal:
This measure adds a new Article to the Oklahoma Constitution. The article creates a limited purpose fund to increase funding for public education. It increases State sales and use taxes by one cent per dollar to provide revenue for the fund. The revenue to be used for public education shall be allocated: 69.50% for common school districts, 19.25% for the institutions under the authority of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, 3.25% for the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education, and 8% for the State Department of Education. It requires teacher salary increases funded by this measure raise teacher salaries by at least $5,000 over the salaries paid in the year prior to adoption of this measure. It requires an annual audit of school districts' use of monies. It prohibits school districts' use of these funds for increasing superintendents' salaries or adding superintendent positions. It requires that monies from the fund not supplant or replace other educational funding. If the Oklahoma Board of Equalization determines funding has been replaced, the Legislature may not make any appropriations until the amount of replaced funding is returned to the fund. The article takes effect on July 1 after its passage.
"SQ 779 is the proposed one percent statewide sales tax increase that’s on the ballot
November 8th. It’s passage would harm Oklahoma. Here are twelve reasons why:
- We’d jump to #2 nationally in overall sales tax rate, with a statewide average of 9.85%. When Louisiana’s temporary 1% sales tax expires in 2018, we’d be #1, matching our female incarceration rate.
- The poor and working class would be hardest hit, since sales taxes are regressive.
- Sales would decline at any business that collects sales tax. New companies would think twice before moving here.
- Towns located near bordering (lower tax) states would suffer more.
- More people would shop online, where sales tax is often zero.
- The business decline would cause job losses, reduction in employee hours worked or reduced company benefits. Hardest hit would be, once again, lower income people.
- Manufacturing companies that buy material and equipment in Oklahoma would have greater incentive to shop (or move) elsewhere.
- The raise in teacher salaries would not be equitable. A teacher of 25 years would get the same $5000 per year increase as a first-year one.
- The worsening business climate would force more young people to leave the state for higher-paying jobs.
- Efforts at real education reform would slow, since the increased tax revenue would “solve” the problem.
- Communities statewide would lose tax flexibility. With such a high sales tax, local voters would likely reject tax increases for future civic needs. Passage of MAPS in Oklahoma City or Vision 2020 would have been more difficult.
- No specific purpose is given for the 19.25% of collected revenue that higher education would receive. Only that it would “improve college affordability.”
Spending also doesn’t directly correlate with high educational performance. Some states with low per pupil spending rank reasonably well, while some of the highest don’t always produce the best education results. That contrast is also seen when comparing the United States to other countries. We spend more than almost everyone but don’t have nearly the test scores and graduation rates to match.
Higher education waste is even worse. Oklahoma spends 1.9% of its GSP Gross State Production) on higher education while the national average is 1.6% That’s a difference of almost 20%. If we reduced spending to that 1.6% figure, the state would save more than $500 million. Part of that money could be spent (if it’s not returned to the taxpayer) on K-12 teacher salaries.
The answer then is not more spending, but wiser spending. For example, reduce our non-teaching overhead from 4th highest in the country to the national average (a savings of $328 million). Require state university professors to teach more classes, instead of the top 20% carrying most of the load (a savings of $181 million). Don’t hire diversity czars at $220,000 per year (OU) while your university president pushes tuition and tax increases. Don’t spend $1.5 million on a new press box and supply every middle and high school student with a new MacBook while reducing your staff and limiting those remaining to a four-day work week (Catoosa). Eliminate the $88 million tax credit for wind producers, most of whom are located outside the United States.
Future columns will examine options to improve our state’s educational system. For now, don’t cripple Oklahoma and its youth."
~ Tim Bakamjian - Just Say No to SQ 779