(Editor’s Note: NonDoc asked two sitting Republican state senators to author Point/Counterpoint commentaries on State Question 779, which would ad $0.01 to the state’s sales tax and adjust the Oklahoma Constitution to ensure greater funding for public education. Here, Sen. Brian Crain of Tulsa writes in support of the ballot question, while Sen. Kyle Loveless of Oklahoma City writes in opposition in a separate piece.)
As a member of the Oklahoma State Senate for the past 12 years, I am proud to endorse SQ 779 — the “Education Tax Initiative.” It represents the best opportunity for Oklahomans to provide substantive support for all levels of education, including public schools, universities and career-technology centers.
Every Oklahoman recognizes that a quality education offers the best chance for a person’s success in life. Every Oklahoma legislator knows that, too, and wants to do everything possible to make that education a reality.
Unfortunately, our Legislature is faced with too many demands upon a limited budget. There’s simply not enough money to meet the needs of all Oklahomans.
A tax increase that raises general revenue does not solve the problem. It would force education advocates to compete with other core agencies: public safety, transportation and health and human services. If history is any indicator of the future, the result would be each portion of state government would see an increase in its appropriation with no particular focus on education. Such a result would do little to address the significant challenges facing Oklahoma schools today.
SQ 779 allows all Oklahomans to join in the effort to build our education system into one in which we can all be proud. It is targeted exclusively toward education at all levels. The revenue generated cannot be used for any other purpose than our schools. While I do not believe money solves all problems, I do believe our teachers and instructors are underpaid and underfunded. Many have not received a raise in years and must resort to second jobs to support their families rather than prepare their upcoming lessons. These are the individuals to whom we entrust our children.
SQ 779 is not the perfect solution to all of our troubles, but it represents the best and surest effort to improve our education system that has been proposed in at least the last 12 years. I have no doubt that, in the years to come, efforts will be made to adjust and improve the plan. However, I intend to vote for a good plan now rather than wait for a perfect plan sometime in the future.
For my friends who oppose this measure, I must ask “What do you offer?” The commentators and pundits opposing SQ 779 focus on the difficulties this measure will have. Sadly, they do not suggest an alternative. It’s often easier to criticize the efforts of others than to suggest another way.
For Oklahomans, SQ 779 provides a clear choice: We can go to the polls on Nov. 8 and support our education system, or we can choose to continue down the path we’ve taken for decades. This choice is not in the hands of the governor, the Legislature or any particular advocacy group. This decision lies with the people of Oklahoma. It lies with you.