News and Insights

Oklahoma Rejects Ballot Initiative to Raise Sales Tax

Tax Development Nov 10, 2016

On November 8, Oklahoma voters rejected State Question No. 779 (Initiative Petition No. 403) by an almost 20-point margin (59.41% “No” votes to 40.59% “Yes”). The measure would have increased the state sales and use tax rate from 4.5% to 5.5%, with the additional revenue dedicated to increase spending on education

According to the text of the measure, 69.5% of the revenue generated through the additional tax was to be allocated to common education (with the remaining 19.25% to higher education, 8% to early childhood education, and 3.25% to career tech). However, 86.33% of the common education spending would have been used to increase teacher salaries by a minimum $5,000 per teacher. According to official arguments in favor of the measure, Oklahoma teachers have not had a pay raise in nearly a decade, and the state ranks 48th in teacher pay.

In an editorial opposing the measure, Sen. Kyle Loveless included concerns about how local government might be constrained (with the change, local and state combined sales tax rates would near or exceed 10% in certain jurisdictions): “By raising the sales tax, we would make it virtually impossible for local governments — especially cities and towns — to increase local taxes for local projects.”1

As of November 1, 2016, registered ballot committee “Oklahoma's Children, Our Future, Inc.,” supporting the measure, raised $4,277,639.39 and spent $2,472,020.17. “Oklahoma Deserves Better,” the ballot committee, opposed  the measure. 

1 Counterpoint: Sen. Kyle Loveless opposes SQ 779, located at