Group pushes to put GPT to public vote

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OKLAHOMA CITY -  The newly created organization, Restore Oklahoma Now, on Wednesday, filed paper work with the Secretary of State to put to a public vote an across-the-board 7 percent tax rate on oil and natural gas production in Oklahoma to help fund public education.

"We believe that the industry is in good enough shape to not need that [tax break money] and we are sure that common education in Oklahoma does need that," said Restore Oklahoma Now Director Mickey Thompson.

Thompson said closing the loop holes in the Gross Production Tax (GPT) would generate about $333 million, easily covering a $4,000 pay raise for Oklahoma teachers. Oil and gas producers disagree.

"We think this is really bad policy for the state of Oklahoma. One, it punishes the most important industry in the state that is really driving Oklahoma economy right now,  and then for educators, it's really bad policy as well to base a pay raise on a very cyclical commodity based revenue stream," said Chad Warmington of the Oklahoma Oil and Gas Association.

One thing that both Restore Oklahoma Now and oil and gas producers can agree on is that they both say the Oklahoma Legislature is not doing enough to solve the state's problems.

"The state isn’t addressing some of its critical needs. Teacher pay is one of those but taxing the industry that is really driving the state’s economy is not very attractive either," says Warmington.

"They have proved to me, and I think a lot of Oklahomans, that they are not going to take care of these issues that are hurting the state that are setting us back," said Thompson.

House Republican staff was contacted on Wednesday but did not respond.

Restore Oklahoma Now will need to get 123,000 signatures in the next 90 days in order to get the question on the ballot next Fall.