OKLAHOMA CITY – For almost two weeks, the Oklahoma Supreme Court has been deciding the fate of a local group’s petition to repeal tax hikes that were recently passed to fund a teacher pay raise.
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.
“It is easy to pass a tax increase. It’s easy to spend other people’s money,” Coburn said in March. “There’s lots of areas where we can go and find the money. That’s not the problem. The question is do you have the leadership that will go and do it? That’s my complaint.”
The arguments heard Monday represent several educational organizations, including the Oklahoma Education Association. In its written argument, the group claims “the gist” of the petition is insufficient and misleading as it is written backwards.
"On behalf of the protestants, I'd like to respectfully submit that this referendum is about as flawed as it could be," said OEA attorney Kent Meyers.
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.
However, the justices noted 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.