OKLAHOMA CITY – Following the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s ruling on a petition to repeal tax hikes associated with a teacher pay raise, several prominent Oklahomans are speaking out about the decision.
On June 11, the Oklahoma Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two challenges to a referendum petition to repeal House Bill 1010XX.
The bill, which passed in March, raises taxes on cigarettes, motor fuels and some oil and gas production. The petition to repeal the bill is championed by the group ‘Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite!,’ which has been backed by former U.S. Sen. Dr. Tom Coburn.
On Friday, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that the petition was invalid.
In the court’s ruling, the justices state that the petition is “misleading for multiple reasons.”
“The gist of Referendum Petition No. 25 is misleading for multiple reasons, any of which would suffice alone to declare it insufficient. Combined, these flaws leave no doubt that signatories are not being put on notice of the changes being made,” the ruling states. “Further, the failure to include an exact copy of the text of the measure to be referred violates a strict statutory mandate that exists to ensure signatories and voters are put on notice of exactly what law is potentially going to be submitted for their approval.”
As a result, the petition is being struck from the ballot.
Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister released the following statement regarding the court’s decision:
”The bipartisan passage of House Bill 1010xx was a significant step forward for all Oklahomans. I commend the Oklahoma Supreme Court for rejecting a repeal effort of this landmark legislation. At long last, we can reward our dedicated, hardworking public school teachers with the competitive pay they deserve. On the heels of a school year in which 1 in 7 students was taught by an untrained teacher, we can, and we must, now begin stemming the tide of Oklahoma’s crippling teacher shortage. Today’s decision clears the way for funding regionally competitive teacher pay, ushering in a new era of stability that is not only a win for public education, but for our kids and the future of our state.”
Oklahoma Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Schulz released the following statement:
“I am pleased the Oklahoma Supreme Court rejected the effort to repeal HB 1010xx. The Legislature took extraordinary steps in passing HB 1010xx and it is absolutely necessary to fully fund the largest teacher pay raise in state history and the significant increase in education funding passed this session. We should all now turn our focus toward working for the resources and reforms necessary to support our teachers and ensure our children get the best education possible.”
Drew Edmondson released the following statement:
“I am pleased the Oklahoma Supreme Court has declared invalid the petition to overturn the teacher pay raise funding. Should the group supporting this misguided effort launch a new petition to undo the teacher raise, I will continue to voice my opposition to their cause. I believe the raise as passed by the legislature should serve as a first step in a series of raises for teachers and support staff. Those who educate our children deserve our respect and that includes earning a decent wage.”
However, Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite! released a statement, saying the mistakes will be fixed.
“Today’s Supreme Court decision has provided a major setback in the effort to protect Oklahomans’ tax dollars. For months, Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite! has struggled with media and unions reporting lies about the petition by falsely stating it was a repeal on teacher pay raises. The effort to REPEAL HB1010XX is to relieve the people from unnecessary and burdensome taxes and had nothing to do with the teacher pay raise. The Supreme Court agreed with that sentiment in their ruling. If the taxes are repealed, the raises remain sacrosanct, as the supremes state on pages 4-5 in their decision.
Because of oversight in communications, scrivener errors and legislative gymnastics, the petition has been ruled invalid in the current form.
Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite! believes in the protection of the taxpayer. At every turn we must ask: who is standing up for us? Our DNA is to fight for injustice perpetrated by all forms of government, after all a government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have.
We are, at our core, conservatives; and we want the conservation and protection of our money to be our civic leaders’ highest priority. It clearly is not. Governments and politicians have long ago decided that plunder of the taxpayer is acceptable, so they grow government at a rapid rate. As Jefferson states, “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield, and government to gain ground.” We must fight against this natural progression.
We want to be remembered as men and women who cared too much rather than cared too little, even if that means our grassroots organization makes mistakes along the journey.
Given today’s decision of the OK Supreme Court, our fight is not over, our battle has just begun. The people did not support this egregious and unnecessary, burdensome tax hike. The people will have their say. Our mistakes will be corrected. Our motivation has been renewed. Our taxes are OUR money, they are not the governments’ money, and it’s time for all of us to declare that together from our rooftops.
Thank you to all Oklahomans who supported our initial effort. We appreciate all you’ve done to stand up for the Oklahoma taxpayer, the Forgotten Man.”
The justices noted in their decision that Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite! still has enough time to try and create a new petition before the July 18 deadline.
“As part of this process, Proponents would need to obtain new signatures as any obtained up until this point for the legally insufficient Referendum Petition No. 25 could not be applied to a new referendum petition,” it states.