OKLAHOMA CITY - The legislative session is over; the state Capitol is practically empty, but the penny sales tax proposal to pay for teacher pay raises is still being hotly debated.
On Thursday, conservative lobby group OCPA Impact filed a legal challenge to the language in the proposed state question.
The petition challenges two areas of the penny sales tax state question: the gist or summary of the state question, and the ballot title.
OCPA Impact calls the language misleading and legally insufficient.
"The ballot calls it a one cent tax; that's why it's called the penny tax. But let's be clear, this is a lot more than a penny that you find in your couch cushions or under your mats in your car. This is a one percent tax increase on all purchases Oklahomans make until the end of time," said OCPA Impact's David Bond.
The penny sales tax would generate more than $600 million for teacher pay raises, investments in early childhood education and higher education.
OCPA Impact has polled Oklahoma voters, and they say Oklahomans are in favor of teacher pay raises, but they aren't sold on giving more public money to state universities, and they do not want more taxes.
"They want to see the teach pay raise happen. Desperately, even if they don't have kids in the public school system. But, they don't want to pay the highest taxes in the country. There is no clamor for that to happen," Bond said.
The Oklahoma Legislature did not pass any of the other education proposals this session that would have secured a pay raise for teachers.
The one penny sales tax proposed in State Question 779 is the only measure left for voters to guarantee a pay raise for every teacher.
The Oklahoma Education Association wants the measure on the ballot so Oklahoma voters can decide if they want to pay an extra penny for education.
"Education is hurting. Our kids are hurting. They are the ones who are feeling the effects of this," said OEA President Alicia Priest.
OU President David Boren was one of the architects of the state question.
Boren issued the following statement:
"It is disappointing that anyone would want to prevent the people of Oklahoma from voting for a real solution to our education crisis. I am confident State Question 779 will survive this challenge."
The state Supreme Court will rule on the challenge.