A new legislative report said a statewide initiative on the November 2010 ballot seeking to increase funding for public education would require a 40% increase in Oklahoma’s income tax or sales tax rate, or across-the-board budget cuts for state agencies.
The Oklahoma Education Association said the state spends $7,615 per student, which is below the $9,078 national average and less per student than is spent by its neighbors Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Texas, and New Mexico.
The report from the House fiscal staff said passage of State Question 744 would require allocation of an additional $850 million a year to education. Lawmakers would have three years to meet that level.
Nearly 240,000 people last year signed petitions to put the Helping Oklahoma Public Education, or HOPE, initiative on the 2010 ballot.
It would require the Legislature to fund education at the regional per-student average.
The fiscal report said the state income tax rate would have to be increased to about 7.4% from 5.5% to generate the additional $850 million.
Other options include an increase in the state sales tax rate from 4.5% to 6.2% and cuts of 20% in state agency budgets.
However, voters will also be deciding next year on a separate ballot question that would ban unfunded spending increases for education authorized by an initiative petition.
Rep. Leslie Osborn, R-Tuttle, who sponsored the resolution authorizing the nullification option, requested the study by the legislative staff.
Rep. Ken Miller, R-Edmond, chairman of the House Budget and Appropriations Committee, said passage of the proposed public education question would take control of the state’s education system away from the Legislature.
“If this state question is approved, the people’s representatives will not be able to prioritize competing needs and will have no say on the largest single component of the state’s budget,” Miller said.
Allocations to public education total about $2.4 billion in fiscal 2010, or some 36% of the state budget.