Sales Tax Increase Gains Support
Oklahoma voters will head to the polls in November, and one of the big state questions on the ballot will be a proposed sales tax increase that will go directly towards increasing teachers salaries in Oklahoma. Currently educators salaries rank dead last, 50th in the country. Many educators have left the state to accept higher paying positions in Kansas, Texas, Arkansas and Missouri, as well other states.
And while Oklahoma State School Superintendent Joy Hofmeister stopped short of a rousing endorsement of the proposal, on Wednesday, the state's top educator did lend her support to the initiative as a way to address the state's continually shrinking pool of teachers. Oklahoma's education superintendent said a ballot measure to increase taxes to fund teacher pay increases isn't ideal, but she'll support it to address the state's shrinking pool of educators.
Speaking in Owasso, Hofmeister re-iterated that the State Legislature should have increased teacher salaries during their last session, but instead chose to leave it to voters. The proposition calls for a 1 percent statewide increase in sales tax, which will be used to fund pay increases to teachers of about $5,000 per educator. In addidition, a portion of the tax increase will be allotted to State Colleges and Universities.
Hofmeister stopped short of a full endorsement of the ballot initiative. During her Wednesday speech, the superintendent stated that while the proposal is not ideal, its long overdue and that she regrets the state has not taken care of previously promised pay raises sooner.
The sales tax initiative was placed on the ballot after Governor Mary Fallin proposed to use a $140 million budget surplus to fund the proposed pay increases. But Fallin then failed to come to agreement with state Republican lawmakers on a special session of the Legislature that would have been needed to re-allocate the funds. Opponents of the ballot measure have stood behind the point that the increase would give Oklahoma the largest average sales tax in the country, according to Washington D.C. based Tax Foundation.