Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb said he is opposed to the penny sales tax for education promoted by University of Oklahoma President David Boren.
Lamb spoke to members of the Edmond Area Chamber of Commerce at Oak Tree Country Club Thursday afternoon.
Registered voters in Oklahoma will be asked on the Nov. 8 statewide ballot whether to approve State Question 779. Approving the measure would create an additional 1 cent sales tax in the state to be deposited into the Oklahoma Education Improvement Fund.
A penny sales tax for education would hamstring Oklahoma communities, Lamb said. He mentioned that Elk City already has a competing sales tax with a Texas community for the lowest sales tax.
SQ 779 is not equitable because a teacher of 25 years would get the same salary increase of a first-year teacher.
“It’s a $5,000 pay raise across the board,” Lamb said of boosting teachers’ salaries.
Sixty-nine and one-half percent of the tax collection would be apportioned among common school districts according to the state aid formula for common education in effect.
Nineteen and one-quarter percent of the collection would go to improving college affordability, or improve higher education.
“More money must go to the classroom,” Lamb said. “That’s where our students are. That’s where our classroom teachers are in the classroom. I had suggested this year a teacher pay raise. I’m all for that, but I want that money in the classroom.”
More than 50 percent of the entire state budget already goes to education, Lamb said. This includes both common and higher education, career technology and early childhood education.
Legislators faced a $1.3 billion revenue shortfall when devising the state budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year. Lamb said he doesn’t have the answer but believes the state government will face fiscal challenges for the following year.
When asked what would help to improve common education in the state, Lamb said he supported School Choice legislation that did not pass through the legislature this year. Under the measure parents could choose where to send their children to school and receive a voucher or tax credit to attend a private school.
“It puts parents back in control of their children’s education and provides a little competition,” Lamb said.
More autonomy for decision making should be given to schools, Lamb added, because local school districts understand more about the issues impacting local students than legislators living in distant communities.