With Election Day Near, Education Tax Opposition Groups Form

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A last-ditch effort to derail a proposed 1-cent sales tax increase for education is underway, driven by a political action committee and a nonprofit that formed just weeks before the Nov. 8 election.

Oklahoma Deserves Better, a so-called “Super PAC” that is against the proposal, registered with the state Oct. 20. Such PACs can raise and spend unlimited sums of money and must report their donors. A social-welfare nonprofit by the same name registered Oct. 14. Such 501(c)(4) nonprofits don’t have to identify donors and are often used to channel funds to PACs to mask the donors’ names.

Proponents of the sales tax, which would help fund teacher pay raises and higher education, have been drumming up support since at least February, when a petition drive to put the question on the ballot began. University of Oklahoma President David Boren is spearheading the effort. The latest survey from Sooner Poll shows that 60 percent of likely voters support the measure.

Public faces of the “vote no” campaign include former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating and former Oklahoma City Mayor Ron Norick.

Also involved in the effort are Enid Mayor Bill Shewey, the PAC’s chairperson, and Anthony Ferate, an Oklahoma City attorney and former lobbyist for the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association.

The Oklahoma Municipal League and several Oklahoma cities have come out in opposition to the penny tax, saying it will make it difficult to raise or maintain local sales taxes to pay for services and needs.

Enid residents approved a 0.75 percent sales tax this summer to fund a 75-mile, $360 million pipeline from Kaw Lake into the city to supply residents’ water.

That tax will be in effect until 2052. It pushes Enid’s combined sales tax rate to 9.1 percent.

The Oklahoma Deserves Better PAC’s first report on contributions and expenditures is due Jan. 31.