This past session, the Oklahoma legislature passed a massive, $447 million tax hike. The bill, HB 1010xx was signed into law by Governor Mary Fallin.
The move was spurred by a multi-state movement to increases taxes to raise teacher wages. Oklahoma lawmakers fell for this, despite gross tax receipts reaching a monthly record high in May at $970.9 million — and tax receipts over the past 12 months having grown by $1.3 billion.
It might come as a surprise that a legislature controlled by Republicans, with a Republican Governor, would pass a tax increase. It should come as a shock that they mustered 79 out of 101 House delegates to vote in favor of a tax hike. It is completely reprehensible that 18 of these lawmakers had pledged in writing to protect taxpayers by opposing any tax increases.
These pledge-breakers are: Governor Mary Fallin, Representatives Josh Cockroft, Randy McDaniel, Charles Ortega, Leslie Osborn, Dustin Roberts, Mike Sanders, Earl Sears, Chris Kannady, Michael Rogers, Scooter Park, Dennis Casey, Senators Kim David, OKC Mayor-Elect David Holt, and AJ Griffin.
Oklahoma taxpayers aren’t taking this lying down. A movement to repeal the tax hike through a ballot initiative, led by Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite, has been working to circulate petitions and advocate for alternatives to a tax increase.
Also fighting the tax hike with Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite is former U.S. Senator Tom Coburn. Coburn explained in an op-ed that while Oklahoma’s public school teachers deserve higher wages, the answer should be more efficient spending rather than increasing taxes.
It’s not just the size of the tax hike, and the betrayal of taxpayers by so many legislators, it is also how the increase was passed that has people up in arms.
It takes a two-thirds majority to pass a tax hike, thanks to a taxpayer protection provision in the state constitution. While the legislature managed to vote with the required majority, they then adjusted the law after the fact. Tax hike opponents say this should have required another vote on the whole package, which would likely have failed.
The petition faces a legal challenge, which will be decided by the state Supreme Court shortly. Though, Oklahoma’s Attorney General Mike Hunter has advocated with Taxpayers Unite in their struggle to repeal the recently approved tax hikes, and has urged the Oklahoma Supreme Court to reject attempts to repeal an anti-tax petition started by the group.
If allowed to move forward, the petition needs 41,000 signatures by July 18 to get on the general election ballot.