Oklahoma education sales tax discussed ahead of election



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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Supporters and opponents of a proposed sales tax increase, with the majority of funds going toward teacher salaries, are looking ahead to the general election.

The Oklahoman (http://bit.ly/2b6N1Kf ) reports that State Question 779 seeks to raise the state sales tax rate by one cent per dollar.

Nearly 70 percent of revenue from the tax increase would go to public schools, and most of that money would be used for teacher pay raises. The proposal requires school districts to increase each teacher's salary by at least $5,000 based on their current salary level.

The rest of the revenue would go to career and technology education centers, early childhood education and state colleges and universities.

Supporters say the tax increase is a response to years of education budget cuts, one of the lowest average teacher salaries in the nation and a growing shortage of teachers.

Some opponents say the tax increase will be detrimental to efforts led by cities and towns to use sales tax revenue for general funds and special projects. Resolutions have been passed by the city councils in Edmond and Yukon, urging citizens to vote against the tax increase.

Anti-tax organizations have also warned passage of SQ 779 would give Oklahoma one of the highest average sales tax rates in the nation.

Gov. Mary Fallin has expressed interest in calling for a special session of the Legislature in an effort to approve an alternative teacher pay increase package that would require SQ 779's failure at the polls.

"I hope in the next several weeks we'll have a proposal," Fallin told a crowd in Tulsa last week.

"If there's a better way to do it why haven't they done it yet?" said Debbie Vance, a Broken Arrow resident, who plans to vote in favor of SQ 779. "It seems like it's always put on the back burner and we will get to it when we get to it. We've got to step up and do something."

According to some critics, the proposal does not have enough detail and oversight on how the funds for colleges and secondary education will be dispersed.

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Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com

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The Associated Press

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