Oklahoma Supreme Court Hears Arguments over Tax Hikes Tied to Teacher Pay Raises

Jun 11, 2018

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The Oklahoma Supreme Court heard arguments Monday in two cases related to teacher pay raise bills.

Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite wants a referendum on the ballot overturning House Bill 1010XX, a special session tax bill the pay raise bill is contingent upon. Attorney Blake Sonne said the state constitution doesn’t allow veto referenda on laws necessary for the public peace, health or safety.

"House Bill 1010 was a revenue-raising measure specifically passed in extraordinary circumstances to fund a state crisis in public education," Sonne said.

Justices asked Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite attorney Barrett Bowers how teacher raises averaging $6,100 will be paid for without the more than $400 million funding mechanism in place.

"We can see currently that we’re going to have a significant surplus in the state and that our receipts for the past month, May and June, are expected to be some of the highest ever," Bowers said.

Justices also heard arguments in a separate challenge saying the petition voters signed in support of the veto referendum inadequately explains its aim.

"There may be some things that could have been done better. But the court’s opinions have said that’s not the role of this court, is to find, 'Could we have written it better? Could we have done it better?'" Bowers said. "It just simply doesn’t amount to fraud or misleading the public or deception in this case."

Opponents of the veto referednum argued the petition does not mention some of the taxes it would affect while leaving in mentions of a lodging tax lawmakers cut out in a deal to pass HB1010XX.

Justices did not set a deadline for their decision in the two cases.