Tag Archives: state spending

Voters want to raise teacher pay using costs savings, government efficiency, not tax increase

New public opinion data suggests a substantial number of Oklahoma voters prefer to see a teacher pay raise funded with cost savings from making other state government spending more efficient, rather than a sales tax increase.

The survey data also indicates if state lawmakers had provided a $5,000 pay raise for Oklahoma teachers in the recent legislative session, public support would likely plummet for a measure on the ballot this fall to hike sales taxes in order to increase teacher salaries.

The surveys in question were conducted by telephone in 11 state House districts, May 16-19. The surveys produced data from 3,461 individual respondents in rural and metropolitan areas across the state.

In seven of the districts surveyed, respondents were likely general election voters. In the other four districts, respondents were likely Republican primary voters.

In each of the 11 legislative districts, GOP incumbents are facing off this year against challengers in the primary or general election.

Several trends stood out from the surveys:

-Voters overwhelmingly believe teachers should receive a pay raise. This is in line with a statewide survey last year that indicated over 97% of Oklahoma voters supported a teacher salary increase. (LINK)

-Support was initially strong among respondents for a proposal on the statewide ballot later this year to fund a teacher pay raise and other spending increases by raising Oklahoma’s sales tax burden to the highest of any U.S. state. The ballot proposal, State Question 779, is championed by Univ. of Oklahoma President David Boren and others.

-Nonetheless, voters strongly preferred a teacher pay raise be funded using cost savings from reductions in nonessential state spending, rather than a tax increase. This reflects another statewide survey, released Mar. 2, which found voters wanted teacher pay raises to be financed with existing taxpayer dollars instead of a tax increase. (LINK)

-If state lawmakers had provided a $5,000 teacher pay raise during the legislative session, which ended in May, voter support for SQ 779 would likely fall enough for the ballot measure to be defeated. The prospect of funding a teacher pay raise without a tax increase resulted in an average drop in voter support for SQ 779 of over 18 percentage points.

During the course of the survey, a large number of respondents appeared to change their mind as to whether they would vote to approve the sales tax increase for teacher pay.

In all 11 surveys, a majority or strong plurality of voters initially indicated their intention to vote for President Boren’s tax increase on the ballot.

However, in 10 of the 11 surveys, once voters were presented with the possibility of state lawmakers providing a $5,000 teacher pay raise without increasing taxes, a majority or strong plurality indicated their intention to vote against President Boren’s ballot proposal.

Only in the survey of voters in House District 21 did support for SQ 779 not fall below opposition after respondents were given an alternative to the tax increase.

HD 21 is located in Bryan County, on the Texas border. Numerous reports have indicated teacher salaries in Texas are roughly $5,000 higher, on average, than in Oklahoma.

As well, Texas teachers typically keep a higher percentage of their paychecks than Oklahoma teachers, due to the lack of an individual income tax in Texas. Plus, the sales tax burden in Texas already falls below Oklahoma’s existing sales tax burden, even without President Boren’s proposed sales tax increase. In addition, grocery purchases in Texas are not assessed sales tax, while in Oklahoma they are.

In all 11 surveys, respondents were asked the following questions:

-Would you support or oppose giving Oklahoma public school teachers a pay raise this year?

District Support Oppose Undecided
HD 2 75.1% 12.7% 12.2%
HD 21 81.2% 13.9% 4.9%
HD 36 76.1% 17.8% 6.1%
HD 43 66.2% 17.8% 15.9%
HD 50 66.3% 21.3% 12.4%
HD 51 74.5% 16.8% 8.8%
HD 62 79.2% 15.6% 5.3%
HD 63 72.7% 19.4% 7.9%
HD 65 64.2% 22.8% 12.9%
HD 69 72.6% 18.2% 9.2%
HD 70 80.2% 13.6% 6.2%
Avg. 73.4% 17.2% 9.2%

-When you go to vote this November, would you support or oppose a proposal on the ballot for a new, one-cent statewide sales tax increase to fund a $5,000 teacher pay raise?

District Support Oppose Undecided
HD 2 54.0% 34.3% 11.7%
HD 21 67.3% 27.4% 5.3%
HD 36 62.3% 29.1% 8.5%
HD 43 51.5% 39.2% 9.3%
HD 50 53.1% 36.5% 10.4%
HD 51 50.5% 37.6% 11.9%
HD 62 55.8% 32.8% 11.5%
HD 63 60.2% 34.7% 5.0%
HD 65 50.2% 39.8% 10.1%
HD 69 48.8% 38.9% 12.3%
HD 70 57.9% 32.1% 10.0%
Avg. 55.6% 34.7% 9.6%

-Would you rather see a teacher pay raise be funded by a tax increase or by cost savings from reducing spending on non-essential areas of Oklahoma’s state government?

District Tax Increase Cost Savings Undecided
HD 2 25.9% 64.7% 9.3%
HD 21 19.7% 66.8% 13.5%
HD 36 18.6% 70.0% 11.3%
HD 43 24.1% 65.4% 10.5%
HD 50 17.8% 73.4% 8.8%
HD 51 17.8% 71.9% 10.3%
HD 62 26.0% 60.0% 14.0%
HD 63 23.0% 66.2% 10.8%
HD 65 20.7% 66.5% 12.7%
HD 69 23.9% 65.9% 10.2%
HD 70 30.4% 62.5% 7.1%
Average 22.5% 66.6% 10.8%

-The Oklahoma Legislature is considering funding a $5,000 teacher pay raise with cost savings instead of with a tax increase. If the Legislature does this before you go to vote this November, would you support or oppose a proposal on the ballot for a new, statewide sales tax increase to fund an additional teacher pay raise?

District Support Oppose Undecided
HD 2 37.1% 47.6% 15.3%
HD 21 48.8% 40.6% 10.6%
HD 36 37.7% 49.4% 13.0%
HD 43 35.7% 54.5% 9.9%
HD 50 29.2% 56.2% 14.6%
HD 51 33.5% 52.1% 14.4%
HD 62 40.7% 44.5% 14.8%
HD 63 37.2% 48.9% 13.9%
HD 65 38.8% 48.5% 12.7%
HD 69 32.0% 53.1% 15.0%
HD 70 40.5% 45.0% 14.5%
Average 37.3% 49.1% 13.5%

The surveys were conducted by Clout Research on behalf of OCPA Impact, Inc., a nonpartisan advocacy organization based in Oklahoma City.

“Oklahoma families don’t want to pay higher taxes, they just want the teachers who work with their children in the classroom every day to receive a meaningful pay raise,” said Dave Bond, OCPA Impact’s CEO. “At a time when thousands of Oklahomans statewide have lost employment because of depressed oil prices, raising taxes is not the answer.”

During Oklahoma’s 2016 legislative session, OCPA Impact was the only organization to advocate at the state Capitol for a salary increase for public school teachers. To provide a $5,000 pay increase for every classroom teacher statewide would cost about $245 million.

To finance the pay raise, OCPA Impact proposed over $750 million worth of various cost savings options from the reform of wasteful or nonessential spending by state government entities.

These included the elimination of all or a portion of the estimated $199 million in subsidies paid out annually by state government to wind energy companies, as well as a portion of the roughly $43 million in investment earnings collected each year by the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET), which spends much of that money on advertising. (LINK)

“Even in the best-run state governments across the country, people know there’s still some waste and some inefficient spending on things that aren’t core priorities,” Bond said. “The fact is, most Oklahomans consider public schools a core funding priority, with good teachers being one of the most precious commodities of all.

“To make sure our state tends to core priorities, state government should, and can, further tighten its belt in less essential areas, as Oklahoma families are doing. Families sometimes have to do more with less, and the same holds true for state government.”

Bond also said many of the incumbent state legislators whose districts were surveyed by OCPA Impact stepped out together toward the end of the legislative session with a public call for a $5,000 teacher pay raise funded by cost savings. (LINK)

“They should be commended for their efforts,” Bond said. “The concerns from across the state, both of parents of schoolchildren and of taxpayers, did not fall entirely on deaf ears.”

OK HD 2 Issues Topline Report 5.20.2016

OK HD 21 Issues Topline Report 5.19.2016

OK HD 36 Issues Topline Report 5.20.2016

OK HD 43 Issues Topline Report 5.20.2016

OK HD 50 Issues Topline Report 5 20 2016

OK HD 51 Issues Topline Report 5.19.2016

OK HD 62 Issues Topline Report 5.20.2016

OK HD 63 Issues Topline Report 5.19.2016

OK HD 65 Issues Topline Report 5.20.2016

OK HD 69 Issues Topline Report 5.20.2016

OK HD 70 Issues Topline Report 5.19.2016

Re-branded, ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion still wrong for Oklahoma

A top priority for OCPA Impact has been for Oklahoma to hold firm on not implementing the optional expansion of Medicaid prescribed by the Affordable Care Act (“ObamaCare”).

To her credit, Gov. Mary Fallin has maintained Oklahoma will not adopt Medicaid expansion (link).

As pointed out by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (link), Medicaid expansion would cost Oklahoma taxpayers hundreds of millions in additional dollars, as thousands of able-bodied, childless adults with income under 133% of the federal poverty level would be added to this federal entitlement.

Unlike most federal entitlements, Medicaid, while funded in part by the federal government, is primarily administered by state governments.

A recent piece in the Wall Street Journal (link) is a stark reminder that states that have accepted the ACA’s Medicaid expansion to increase enrollments have seen billions of dollars in unanticipated cost overruns.

Now, state government bureaucrats in Oklahoma want to use the current $1.3 billion state government budget shortfall as an excuse to squeeze in a re-branded version of the ACA’s Medicaid expansion (link).

The Oklahoma Health Care Authority, the state’s Medicaid agency, is pushing what it calls its “Medicaid Rebalancing” plan. A proposed 150% tax increase on cigarettes (link), which OCPA Impact opposes (link), is intended to fund the plan.

In a recent Journal Record column (link), OCPA’s Jonathan Small stated that the OHCA’s “Rebalancing” plan is, in fact, ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion:

“With this attempt, OHCA bureaucrats have tried to box policymakers in by using a set of public relations tactics. First, the OHCA warned the Medicaid program may end. Then, the OHCA declared Medicaid (a taxpayer-funded entitlement program) the largest health insurer in the state. Then, the OHCA warned of cuts to the program, by way of provider cuts of 25 percent. Of course, the media ran with that story, stoking frenzy.”

More:

“Nearly 27 percent of Oklahomans were enrolled in the Medicaid program during the most recent fiscal year according to the OHCA. If they get their way with their plan, then nearly 33 percent of Oklahomans will have their health care paid for nearly in full by government. This wouldn’t even take into account Medicare.

“Without the ACA Medicaid expansion, Oklahoma’s spending on Medicaid has grown largely because of the number of people on the program and previous expansions proffered by OHCA.

“Now, to swindle policymakers into a proposal that will incentivize people to decrease work and drop private health care coverage to gain subsidies, OHCA bureaucrats say their plan should be tried because they will release some currently on the Medicaid program to the treacherous, federally funded Obamacare exchange.

More:

“Expanding government health care or welfare programs is bad policy and short-sighted whether oil is $100 a barrel or $30 a barrel. This is just a planted and dangerous distraction from lawmakers prioritizing spending in a tough budget year and providing the pay raise for teachers that they should by the end of this legislative session.”

Still, serious concerns exist about possible closures for health facilities located outside Oklahoma’s metro areas.

Unfortunately, the response from state bureaucrats has been to propose increasing the number of Oklahomans dependent on government for their health care and increasing our state’s dependency on federal dollars.

The OHCA’s “Rebalancing” plan is not intended to merely maintain Oklahoma’s current Medicaid levels. Rather, it would increase by at least 175,000 the number of Oklahomans enrolled in government-funded health care.

Thankfully, other routes are available. OCPA Impact has already helped successfully promote reforms, proven elsewhere — including in Florida and Louisiana — to reform Medicaid in Oklahoma. The goal should be to bring down the cost curve for taxpayers and increase sustainability without reducing quality of service for people eligible for the program.

OCPA Impact’s 2015 legislative scorecard (link) featured House Bill 1566, which Gov. Fallin signed into law to begin these reforms in Oklahoma. But the OHCA has been slow to implement the measure.

An additional option would be for Oklahoma lawmakers to use a portion of the investment earnings from the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) to provide stopgap funding for health facilities outside the metro areas that are truly in need in Oklahoma’s current economic climate.

OCPA Impact will continue working to help keep ObamaCare’s costly Medicaid expansion out of Oklahoma.

Read the briefs: Our challenge of Boren tax increase’s constitutionality

On Thursday, Nov. 12, we filed a challenge with the Oklahoma Supreme Court that Initiative Petition 403–University of Oklahoma President David Boren’s sales tax increase proposal–violates the state Constitution’s single-subject rule.

Immediately after filing the challenge, we held a press briefing outside the Oklahoma Judicial Center, which houses the state Supreme Court. Below, please find all four items we distributed to members of the press at the briefing:

-Application to resume original jurisdiction (filed Nov. 12 with Oklahoma Supreme Court)

Brief in support of application to resume original jurisdiction (also filed Nov. 12 with Oklahoma Supreme Court)

-Press release

-One-pager outlining our alternative proposal for funding $5,000 pay raises for all current Oklahoma classroom teachers and hiring 1,000 additional teachers — without a tax increase and without hurting core state government services, such as education, roads, bridges, infrastructure, public safety or the safety net for the truly less fortunate

2015.11.12 Application to Assume Original Jurisdiction (1)

2015.11.12 Brief in Support of Application to Assume Original Jurisdicti… (1)

OCPA Impact petition challenge press release 11 12 2015

Stop Higher Taxes_Media

151112_ocpaimpact

OCPA Impact challenges constitutionality of Boren tax increase

Last week, we filed a formal protest with the Oklahoma Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of Initiative Petition 403, the proposal by University of Oklahoma President David Boren to fund teacher salary increases by making Oklahomans pay the nation’s highest sales tax burden.

The ballot petition is a textbook example of logrolling. Oklahoma teachers deserve a pay raise, but voters need to know there’s a lot more in Pres. Boren’s petition than just a tax increase and a teacher pay raise.

We also offered an alternative plan to fund teacher salary increases–and hire 1,000 additional classroom teachers–by eliminating portions of over $617 million in identified wasteful or nonessential state government spending.

A strong majority of Oklahomans want a pay raise for teachers, to reward and retain the people making a difference in the lives of children in the classroom. This can be done without a misleading, unconstitutional money grab.

Initiative Petition 403, filed in October, violates the Oklahoma Constitution’s single-subject rule because it contains at least four distinct subjects.

Subject #1–Teacher pay raise: The first general subject of the petition is a $5,000 pay raise for public school teachers.

Subject #2–Unrelated funding: To secure the pay raise for teachers, voters will have to agree to a tax increase from which over 40 percent of the funds will go toward items other than teacher salaries. This separate money, unrelated to teacher salaries–much of it unrelated even to common education–is the petition’s second subject.

Subject #3–Sales tax: The third subject is that voters who favor the teacher pay raise must accept that it would be funded through a 22-percent increase of the state sales tax rate. After taking into account municipal and county sales taxes, along with the state’s current sales tax rate of 4.5 percent, the Boren tax increase would give Oklahoma the nation’s highest average combined state-and-local sales tax burden–9.7 percent–according to the Tax Foundation.

As well, Tulsa and Oklahoma City would have the third- and fourth-highest sales tax burdens, respectively, among major U.S. cities, trailing only Chicago and Seattle.

Subject #4–State appropriations process: The fourth subject is that the petition would force voters who favor the teacher pay raise to accept a restructuring, within the state’s Constitution, of the state government appropriations process. The state Board of Equalization–an executive-branch entity–would have the authority to instruct the Legislature on how to fund education and most other areas of state government.

The ballot petition clearly violates the one-general-subject rule of Article XXIV, Section 1 of the Oklahoma Constitution.

By comparison, in 2004, Oklahoma voters approved creation of the Oklahoma Lottery, from which some revenues were to be used to fund education.

However, the Lottery was presented to voters in two separate ballot questions. The first, State Question 705, created the Oklahoma Lottery Commission for the purpose of operating the lottery. The second, State Question 706, created the Oklahoma Education Lottery Trust Fund, to be the conduit for a portion of proceeds to fund education.

As explained in our filing, the state Supreme Court has previously opposed logrolling on the grounds that “voters should not have to adopt measures of which they really disapprove in order to embrace positions that they favor.”

Initiative Petition 403 is not legally sufficient to be submitted for a vote of the people. The Court should not allow the petition to advance to the signature-gathering stage.

The traditional concept of logrolling is that you roll up something people like with something they don’t like. Citizens then vote for the thing they like, such as a teacher pay raise, but end up saddled with the thing they didn’t favor, such as paying the highest sales taxes in the nation.

A better way to increase teacher salaries is to eliminate wasteful or nonessential state spending, which is achievable without hurting other core services.

The National Education Association estimated Oklahoma had 42,027 classroom teachers during the 2014-15 school year, with an average salary of $44,628.

To give every teacher an average pay raise of $5,000 and hire another 1,000 teachers at an average salary of $49,628, using a multiplier of 1.5 to estimate benefits, would cost $284.5 million.

For a list of wasteful and nonessential spending in Oklahoma’s state government, totaling $617.3 million, that could be eliminated to fund teacher pay raises and hire more teachers, visit www.StopHigherTaxesOK.com.

[Photo credit: Oklahoma Watch]

Results achieved in Oklahoma’s 2015 legislative session

Oklahoma’s 2015 legislative session concluded May 22. At OCPA Impact, we set four objectives prior to the start of session.

These were: (a) enact paycheck protection to safeguard taxpayers from out-of-control government-sector unions, (b) expand options for children to attend schools that best meet their educational needs, (c) advance reforms to reduce the cost curve of state government spending, and (d) continue working to end Oklahoma’s burdensome income tax.

Due to efforts by groups like OCPA Impact and Americans for Prosperity’s Oklahoma chapter – along with growth-minded state lawmakers – results were achieved on these items.

On Apr. 2, Gov. Mary Fallin signed into law House Bill 1749, a paycheck protection measure resembling Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s reforms.

The new law prohibits Oklahoma state government from collecting dues for organizations that collectively bargain against taxpayers at the state agency or school district level. Taxpayers had previously been forced to facilitate dues collections for labor unions that funded extreme political causes.

This session also saw passage of House Bill 1693, updating the Equal Opportunity Education Scholarship, one of two private educational choice programs in Oklahoma.

Established in 2011, the scholarship gives parents access to better educational opportunities for their school-age children. This year’s update makes it easier for students from special populations, including disabled, homeless or abused children, to participate.

Proposals were also promoted to allow parents to utilize another option, Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), to place their children in more suitable educational environments outside the public system. The ESA issue advanced further this year than in 2014 and is alive for next spring’s legislative session.

Passage of House Bill 1566, a significant reform of Oklahoma’s Medicaid system, should help reduce the cost curve of state government spending.

Medicaid has become the fastest-growing area of state spending. Oklahoma’s Medicaid system is fee-for-service, with little emphasis on responsible individual behavior. This has led to cost overruns. The new reform begins a shift to a structure in which care is better coordinated among providers to improve health outcomes for beneficiaries, reducing costs.

There was also progress this session on responsibly ending Oklahoma’s “penalty on work,” the state income tax. With states like Missouri, Kansas and Arkansas reducing tax rates on working families and entrepreneurs, Oklahoma must compete.

Last fall, the Oklahoma Supreme Court upheld the income tax reduction passed by lawmakers earlier in the year. Justices had been expected to throw out – but instead upheld – the reduction, which is still scheduled to lower Oklahoma’s tax rate to 5 percent starting Jan. 1, 2016.

This session, rumblings at the Capitol suggested lawmakers might cancel this tax relief so they could spend more money.

When a left-leaning, New York City pollster said Oklahomans didn’t want a tax reduction next year, numerous opinion surveys by Oklahoma firms were pointed to, debunking this myth.

In the end, lawmakers passed a budget that preserves the upcoming income tax reduction and keeps Oklahoma’s tax rate moving in the right direction – down.

OCPA Impact Supports Medicaid Reform Proposal

OCPA Impact supports passage of House Bill 1566, Medicaid reform, by state Rep. Glen Mulready and state Sen. Kim David.

This measure represents a significant reform of Oklahoma’s Medicaid system. As Oklahoma practices better management of its Medicaid system, the federal funds offered via the Obamacare Medicaid expansion will appear less and less enticing.

Medicaid represents the fastest-growing area of Oklahoma’s state government spending over the past decade. Due to rapid growth in recent years in Oklahoma’s Medicaid spending, total state spending on health care now exceeds total state spending on education.

One of the chief objectives of reforms such as those contained in HB 1566 is to better coordinate care among providers in order to improve the health outcomes of individual Medicaid beneficiaries — individual people, with unique health needs and circumstances — with the eventual goal of seeing many of these individuals transition out of the Medicaid system.

Oklahoma’s Medicaid system is currently a strict fee-for-service arrangement, with little to no emphasis on responsible behavior by the individual. This has led to severe cost overruns.

If Oklahoma doesn’t adopt reforms such as those in HB 1566, the alternative will be large Medicaid reimbursement rate cuts for providers in the state. Reform is urgently needed. Scare tactics intended to forestall reform should be considered as such.

States across the country are reforming their Medicaid systems to control cost overruns while still ensuring quality health outcomes for beneficiaries. One such state is Louisiana, where Gov. Bobby Jindal has led the way in implementing reforms very similar to those in HB 1566.

We encourage Oklahoma legislators to please support HB 1566. Upcoming votes on the measure will be scored as positive on the legislative scorecard OCPA Impact will release at the end of Oklahoma’s 2015 legislative session.