At first glance, State Question 779 seems like the right the thing to do.
However, a thorough examination reveals it causes more harm than good.
We may all believe we need to pay teachers more. But that is just one small part of 779. In fact, less than half of the money it raises is necessary to give teachers the promised raise.
The real peril is how 779 will hurt vital city services. If Oklahoma becomes the highest sales tax state in the nation (the reality should 779 pass), we will see more and more shoppers go online for even everyday items like groceries. It will encourage people to go to other states to make major purchases. It will severely damage our ability to fund vital city services, which rely almost solely on sales tax revenue. Passage of 779 will be choosing to fund higher education instead of police and fire protection, to fund school administration instead of vital infrastructure.
Should SQ 779 pass, the combined sales tax rate will be more than 10 percent for residents of more than 50 of Oklahoma’s cities. Our average sales tax rate will become the highest in the nation.
The teacher pay raise could have been achieved with a 1/3 penny sales tax and our cities likely could have absorbed that increase. But, as written, SQ 779 is a flawed plan because it hurts our ability to deliver services while all the while not achieving its stated purpose. Oklahoma deserves better.
Our state has attempted to fix education for decades with proposals that focus only on funding rather than reform. You might remember HB 1017, pari-mutuel horse racing, the lottery and casino gaming, all of which promised to fix the state’s education system, but none of which have made any serious impact. Attempting to yet again fix the problem with this proposed 1-cent sales tax is no different than any of these previously proposed plans and is not a comprehensive solution.