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Oklahoma Supreme Court approves state question on oil-and-gas tax to fund education

Downtown Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, is seen from the air, July 16, 2015. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Supreme Court says an initiative petition seeking a public vote on whether to increase the oil and gas production tax to help fund education can move forward.

The court ruled on Monday that the petition is “legally sufficient” to be submitted to a vote of the people. Supporters will now have a 90-day window to gather about 124,000 signatures.

The proposal by Restore Oklahoma Now, Inc. would increase the tax on oil and gas production in Oklahoma by 5 percent. About 90 percent of the revenue would be earmarked for a $4,000 teacher raise, with the rest aimed at early education programs.

The Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association argued the proposal created an unconstitutional retroactive tax and violated the single-subject rule. The court disagreed.

Following the ruling, the Oklahoma Oil and Gas Association released the following statement:

“It’s easy to look at the oil and natural gas industry for a quick fix when the state is facing economic hardships, but raising taxes on a single industry is not a cure-all for every financial woe. It is dangerous to further tie teacher salaries and education funding more strongly to a revenue source that fluctuates radically. Should this measure make it to the ballot, we will educate the public on the consequences of passing such an initiative, including the job losses it will cause in the energy sector.

We believe teachers deserve salary increases and schools deserve adequate funding, but raising the gross production tax yet again is not a long-term solution. We will continue to work with out state leaders and educators to find a sustainable answer to this problem,”¬†OKOGA President Chad Warmington said.