Taxpayer Group Announces Tax Increase Petition On Track

Friday, May 25th 2018, 6:18 pm
By: Emory Bryan

The group behind the effort to overturn the tax increase to fund teacher pay raises says they're on track to get the signatures they need. They're also disputing the notion the pay raises would be impacted at all.

It's going to end up in court long before it gets to the ballot. But it's leaving teachers without certainty they'll get a pay raise this year.

“For me, transparency and accountability comes first and then if we have to raise taxes, then we'll raise taxes," said Dr. Tom Coburn.

Dr. Coburn is a prominent voice backing the veto effort. The group, Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite, has a signature drive going that could roll back the taxes and spending on teacher raises.

It's returning the power back to you, the people, to be a safety check on a legislature that has allowed waste, fraud, and abuse of your tax dollars," said Ronda Vuillemont-Smith of Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite.

The legislature passed the taxes and approved the raises, but Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite believe the state could pay teachers more without raising taxes. The teacher raises alone will cost $353 million dollars.

“There is not money in the state budget to pay for the pay raises unless you cut other parts of the state budget,” says Shawn Hime of the Oklahoma State School Board Association. The legal uncertainty has school boards delaying budget decisions while administrators say they're unable to promise raises the legislature approved.

But the taxpayer group believes that's a scare tactic.

"They are lying to you. Why wouldn't we be thinking that the health department with their hand out might be the same deal as the State Department of Education? If there's money hidden over here, couldn't there be money hidden over here?” said Brooke McGowan of Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite.

The petition drive has a July 18th deadline, but the taxpayer's group believes they'll reach their goal before then.

The next milestone is hearing June 11th, at the state Supreme Court.