The editorial board of The Oklahoman is off to an interesting start in its response to the initiative to raise the state sales tax by one penny generating revenue that would be dedicated exclusively to education funding.
It’s difficult to fully discern if the newspaper’s leaders are against or in favor of the proposal, which is being championed by University of Oklahoma president David Boren. We should assume it’s against the proposal because the newspaper is probably the most conservative big-city daily in the country and tax increases are an anathema to its overall philosophy to privilege the wealthy and keep as many Oklahomans as poor as it possibly can.
Here’s what the newspaper published about the initiative on Saturday in its Oklahoma ScissorTales series:
A push to approve a 1-cent sales tax increase for the benefit of education in Oklahoma is off to an interesting start. Supporters of an initiative petition drive filed the necessary paperwork Wednesday to begin their campaign. At a corresponding news conference, University of Oklahoma President David Boren emphatically declared, “Let the people vote. That’s our message today.” A full-page advertisement in The Oklahoman and other newspapers on Thursday made the same plea: “Let the People Vote!” Yet there’s no one standing in the way of allowing a vote to happen. This isn’t a drive that requires legislative approval, or any approval. What it requires is for supporters to gather enough valid signatures of Oklahoma voters in the time allowed by law. We have little doubt they’ll succeed, and that in November 2016 the people will indeed get the chance to vote on this question.
Interesting. An anti-education, anti-tax vulture circling above patiently as it awaits its final swoop while lefties do the dirty work? This followed a meandering and incoherent editorial Thursday about the sales tax issue and tax policy in general. I’m unsure what this editorial actually was trying to get at, but it did remind me to “keep these facts in mind.” Got it. Well, actually, it didn’t really make sense on any level. Perhaps it was too obvious. Tax increases do affect people. Okay. Good job, great thinkers of our era.
Here’s what’s really “interesting” or, shall we say, so typical and predictable. The Oklahoman is going to oppose the sales tax increase, which is estimated to raise more than $600 million a year for common and higher education, and they will be joined and even led and encouraged by many supposedly left-leaning people in this state. This is exactly what destroyed State Question 744 in 2010, which would have increased education funding here to only a regional average, a pittance, really. The left’s argument against this latest proposal is that sales taxes are regressive and hurt the poor the most. The Oklahoman editorial board, which could care less about the poor, will seize on this bonanza by publishing guest op-eds and reminding us that, see, even the despised lefties are against the proposal.
So here’s what to like about this proposal:
(1) It’s only a penny increase.
(2) All the money is dedicated to educational systems, which will still receive baseline funding from state government.
(3) The money will fund $5,000 annual raises for teachers. Oklahoma faces a major teacher shortage because salaries for educators here are just about the lowest in the nation. Who wouldn’t at least think about moving to Texas when you could make $18,000 more a year to teach there?
(4) The sales tax increase IS regressive, sure, but it will benefit the most school-aged children from lower-income families. Paying an extra 50 cents or dollar at the grocery store each week is worth it, even for people who struggle to make ends meet and even if they don’t have children in school. A better-educated Oklahoma means a more prosperous Oklahoma.
The arguments against the proposal will drip with false sanctimony about lower income people, but, in reality, it boils down to whether someone believes that education is the answer or not to our social problems in this place. I DO believe and know that education is absolutely the answer, and I strongly encourage people to sign the initiative petition and vote in favor of the measure in 2016.