Tag Archives: 2016 ballot questions

Less than half of 779 tax money guaranteed for teachers

There’s disagreement over just how much, and what percentage, of the money from State Question 779’s massive sales tax increase will go to public school teacher compensation.

Three groups have reached different calculations for how much it would cost to provide a $5,000 pay raise for every public school classroom teacher in Oklahoma:

$210 million – Oklahoma Deserves Better

$245 million – OCPA Impact

$300 million – Oklahoma State School Boards Association

Yet these three numbers have something in common: they’re all less than 50% of the total amount — $615 million — that 779’s supporters say the 779 tax increase will collect each year!

And the hard truth is, when you read closely 779’s fine print, it’s clear that, other than the money for the $5,000 pay raise, not one penny more of the 779 tax money is guaranteed to go to teacher compensation.

Bottom line: less than 50% of the 779 tax money is guaranteed to go to teacher compensation. Period.

Not convinced? Read 779’s fine print and do the math for yourself:
https://www.sos.ok.gov/documents/questions/779.pdf

Pro-779 ad makes false, blatantly misleading claims

This week, the group Oklahoma’s Children, Our Future unveiled an ad supporting State Question 779, the permanent, 1% statewide sales tax on the Nov. 8 ballot in Oklahoma.

Together, the ad and an accompanying post on the group’s website make four claims, three of which are most certainly false, while the fourth is blatantly misleading.

Claim #1: 60% of the 779 tax money “will go toward teachers.”

The Facts: It’s shocking that 779’s supporters are trying to present as a positive that 40% of the money from 779’s sales tax increase – 40 cents of every dollar taken from working Oklahomans – would not be spent on teachers.

The reality, though, is even worse: only 39% – not 60%, as the pro-779 ad suggests – of the 779 tax money would be required to go to teacher salaries or benefits. It’s possible, though not guaranteed, this number could ultimately be higher, but there is nothing in 779’s fine print requiring more than 39% of the 779 tax money to go to teacher compensation.

Let’s clarify how we calculated 39%. Proponents of 779 say the measure will bring in $615 million in new tax money each year, via 779’s sales tax increase on working Oklahomans. According to the National Education Assoc. and the Oklahoma State Dept. of Education, there are approx. 42,027 public school classroom teachers in Oklahoma. To provide each with a $5,000 salary increase, factoring in a multiplier of .17 for FICA and other employment-related costs, would cost $245 million.

A simple division calculation reveals that the cost of providing the $5,000 teacher salary boost – $245 million – is 39% of the total 779 is projected to generate – $615 million.

245 / 615 = 39%

After the teacher pay raise dollars are taken out, this particular pot of 779 money – one of five different pots detailed in 779’s fine print – would have $123.9 million remaining.

In 779’s fine print, the only requirement for this $123.9 million is that it be spent to “otherwise address and prevent teacher and certified instructional staff shortages in the manner most suited to local district circumstances and needs.”

That’s it. No requirement to hire more teachers. No requirement to spend the money on teacher salaries, benefits or other compensation.

Experience suggests that, while some local school district officials would use these extra funds to hire more teachers or further increase teacher compensation, others would not.

Verdict: The claim by Oklahoma’s Children, Our Future is false. Only 39% of the 779 tax money is required to go to teacher compensation.

Claim #2: “Every single penny” of the 779 tax money has annual audit requirements built in.

The Facts: In its descriptions of the five different pots of 779 tax money, 779’s fine print only includes audit requirements for two of the pots – the pot from which the teacher pay raise funds will be drawn, and the pot designated for “programs, opportunities, or reforms” to improve reading, boost high school graduation rates, and “increase college and career readiness.”

The other three pots – the $118.3 million lump sum for Higher Education, the $19.9 million lump sum for Career Tech, and the $49.2 million lump sum for the State Dept. of Education – feature no audit requirements whatsoever.

After everything is tabulated, 70% of the 779 tax money will include audit requirements, while 30% will not.

Verdict: The claim by Oklahoma’s Children, Our Future is false. Only 70% of the 779 tax money includes audit requirements.

Claim #3: The 779 tax money cannot be spent on “administrative overhead.”

The Facts: From 779’s fine print:

“None of these monies distributed from the (779 fund) to common school districts may be used to add superintendent positions or increase superintendents’ salaries.”

That’s it. No restrictions on adding positions or increasing salaries for assistant superintendents, administrative assistants, principals, vice-principals, assistant principals, curriculum directors, IT support staff, coaches, program directors, communications officers, chiefs of staff, athletic directors, etc.

Verdict: The claim by Oklahoma’s Children, Our Future is false. Portions of the 779 tax money may be spent on administrative overhead.

Claim #4: Since 779 would be locked into the Oklahoma Constitution, the 779 tax money would be kept out of “the meddling hands of politicians.”

The Facts: Disparaging politicians and their “meddling hands” is a time-honored American tradition, practiced with great wit by Mark Twain, Will Rogers and other luminaries.

In this case, however, it’s merely a ploy to distract voters away from the fact that 779 will: (a) require all Oklahomans, regardless of income, to pay the highest permanent sales tax burden in the nation, and (b) provide state government bureaucrats and school administrators with the constitutional protection to spend up to 60% of the 779 tax money on stuff other than teacher compensation.

Ultimately, whether 779 is approved or rejected on the ballot may come down to Oklahoma voters determining which group they trust the most … or, perhaps, distrust the least: publicly-elected politicians at the state Capitol, or un-elected state government bureaucrats and school administrators.

For many Oklahoma voters, that may be a tough call. Either way, the claim by Oklahoma’s Children, Our Future is blatantly misleading.

State Question 792: Modernization of Oklahoma’s alcohol sales laws

To view OCPA Impact’s complete guide to all the state questions on the 2016 Oklahoma statewide ballot, please click here.

State Question 792: Modernization of Oklahoma’s alcohol sales laws

If it passes (“YES” vote):

Oklahoma consumers would be able to purchase wine and high-strength beer in grocery and convenience stores, which would be a big plus for liberty. Want to be able to buy wine and six-point beer at the grocery store? Here’s your chance. The reform could result in certain grocers doing business in Oklahoma after holding out for years because of the state’s longstanding prohibition on grocers offering such products. As well, certain beers that have not previously been offered in Oklahoma for similar reasons – Fat Tire, anyone? – could now become available from in-state retailers. Also, traditional liquor stores would be able to refrigerate products, as well as offer products they are currently prohibited from selling, such as mixers, corkscrews, and the like.

If it fails (“NO” vote):

The status quo for Oklahoma’s alcohol retail laws would remain in place. To be sure, if passed, SQ 792 would result in disruption within Oklahoma’s alcohol industry. Some are concerned that passage of SQ 792 could result in unintended negative consequences in the price point charged by distributors, particularly in how this might affect the restaurant industry. Still, if SQ 792 fails to pass, the ability of Oklahoma citizens to access a host of products would continue to be restricted.

State Question 790: Allow Ten Commandments monument back on state property

To view OCPA Impact’s complete guide to all the state questions on the 2016 Oklahoma statewide ballot, please click here.

State Question 790: Allow the Ten Commandments monument back onto state government property

If it passes (“YES” vote):

Oklahoma’s state government will be able to put the Ten Commandments monument back on state property. The monument was removed from the state Capitol grounds in 2015 following a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Will likely dramatically reduce the likelihood of any successful lawsuits to restrict the use of state taxpayer dollars currently going toward providing public services via private entities that have religious affiliation, such as foster care, prison ministries, hospitals (such as INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center, Mercy Hospital, St. John’s Medical Center, St. Francis Hospital, etc.), private universities (such as Oklahoma Baptist University, Southern Nazarene University, Oklahoma Christian University, etc.), homeless ministries, scholarships for children with disabilities, parental education choice programs, and more. Would also likely reduce the likelihood of lawsuits filed against local public school districts over such activities as prayer at school athletic events.

If it fails (“NO” vote):

The status quo in such matters will prevail. The Oklahoma Constitution would retain what is referred to as its “Blaine Amendment. ” In the late 19th Century and early 20th Century, many states enacted similar amendments to their state constitutions, mostly in an anti-Catholic effort. Such amendments are antiquated and have their origins in deep prejudice.

State Question 781: Directs cost-savings from sentencing reforms to local governments

To view OCPA Impact’s complete guide to all the state questions on the 2016 Oklahoma statewide ballot, please click here.

State Question 781: Directs cost-savings from sentencing reforms to local governments

If it passes (“YES” vote):

If SQ 780 passes, state prisons across Oklahoma would be expected to house fewer inmates, while county jails could be expected to house more, as offenders are housed closer to their families and to local treatment programs. SQ 781 would help ensure that a portion of the cost savings realized by state prisons would be passed on to county facilities.

If it fails (“NO” vote):

The systemic, cost-saving reform in SQ 780 would be severely frustrated in the implementation process. One of the key goals of SQ 780 – to allow local officials more flexibility to address local factors contributing to mental health and substance abuse issues – would be difficult, if not impossible, to realize.

State Question 780: Reduce costs by reducing sentencing for certain nonviolent crimes

To view OCPA Impact’s complete guide to all the state questions on the 2016 Oklahoma statewide ballot, please click here.

State Question 780: Reduce taxpayer costs by changing sentencing from felony to misdemeanor for simple drug possession, other nonviolent crimes

If it passes (“YES” vote):

The proposal will likely result in significant cost savings for the taxpayers who fund Oklahoma’s criminal justice system, particularly in the area of incarceration and imprisonment. Similar reforms in other states, most notably in Texas, have resulted in major cost savings. Many proponents of the reform suggest such a move would allow Oklahoma’s criminal justice system to focus more on those individuals “who we are truly afraid of,” rather than those “who we are merely mad at.” By no longer classifying simple drug offenses as felonies, harsh prison sentences for such crimes are expected to be reduced.

If it fails (“NO” vote):

Oklahoma’s judicial and corrections system will continue to treat simple drug offenses in what many believe to be an overly excessive manner. The status quo on simple drug offenses in Oklahoma will hold firm. Many believe this status quo, as opposed to an emphasis on drug courts and rehabilitation, to be too often a determining factor in Oklahoma’s abnormally high rate of female and minority incarcerations. Such negative trends have been credited with the breakup of many families up and down the socioeconomic scale throughout Oklahoma.

State Question 779: Permanent, statewide sales tax increase

To view OCPA Impact’s complete guide to all the state questions on the 2016 Oklahoma statewide ballot, please click here.

State Question 779: Permanent, statewide sales tax increase

If it passes (“YES” vote):

A massive tax increase on working Oklahoma families, entrepreneurs and private-sector job creators of all sizes. Will create a new, permanent 1% statewide sales tax, on top of the existing 4.5% state sales tax rate and county and municipal sales taxes. Oklahomans, on average, will pay a total state-and-local sales tax burden of 9.8%, the highest of any U.S. state. The average tax increase statewide, per household, will likely exceed $420 every year. Proponents estimate the tax increase will bring in an additional $615 million every year, with a portion of the funds going toward a $5,000 teacher pay raise. However, over 40% of the funds from the tax increase will be pre-dedicated for things besides teacher salaries, including nearly 20% – about $115 million – for the state’s public higher education system, with zero accountability. FYI: To provide a $5,000 pay raise for every classroom public school teacher statewide costs only about $245 million, less than half what SQ 779’s sales tax increase is expected to bring in.

If it fails (“NO” vote):

Oklahoma taxpayers will have been shielded from being forced to pay the nation’s highest sales tax burden. Pressure will hopefully increase on lawmakers at the Oklahoma Capitol to provide a teacher salary increase without increasing taxes at a time when the state’s economy is still reeling from depressed oil and natural gas prices. Superintendents in public school districts, as well as bureaucrats in higher education and Career Tech, will hopefully feel more pressure to be as efficient with the taxpayer dollars they already receive as the Oklahomans who paid those taxes in the first place.