OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Several Oklahoma cities have passed resolutions urging residents to vote against a proposed state sales tax for education, but questions have been raised about the legality of such moves.
A one-cent sales tax for public education, known as State Question 779, will be on the Nov. 8 ballot. City councils in Piedmont, Edmond, Midwest City, Kingfisher have passed resolutions suggesting voters turn it down, according to The Oklahoman.
The tax hike would give Oklahoma the highest average combined state and local sales tax rate in the nation at 9.82 percent, according to the Tax Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based think-tank that advocates for broad-based, low-rate tax policies.
The Oklahoma City Council considered a resolution, but the city attorney advised against it, citing state law and an Oklahoma attorney general's 1991 opinion that said use of taxpayer funds by public officials to oppose or support a state ballot initiative is prohibited. Councilman Pete White said that while he opposes the proposed sales tax, he didn't plan on pushing for a resolution because he believed doing so would violate state law.
Edmond Mayor Charles Lamb, who voted in favor of the resolution in July, says the City Council only made an official position statement, that the city's attorney was involved in the creation of the resolution and never advised it was an illegal action.
According to Lauren Folks, a teacher in Edmond, the city's action is an inappropriate step for public officials to take.
"Every year, I have to watch a training tutorial that reminds us teachers we can't use our time at school or materials to promote political things," Folks said. "They are city employees, and I would expect the same thing from them. They had to take time to create the resolution."
Piedmont councilman John Brown says he doesn't see how passing a resolution, which doesn't include anything binding, would violate the law. If the measure passes, Piedmont's sales tax rate would be more than 10.8 percent.
"This is going to harm cities, and we want people to know that," he said.