Petition drive seeks to reverse teacher pay tax hikes - - Texoma news, weather and sports

Petition drive seeks to reverse teacher pay tax hikes

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Oklahoma teachers continue to protest for higher education funding. Oklahoma teachers continue to protest for higher education funding.

DURANT, Okla. -- Oklahoma lawmakers and Gov. Mary Fallin have already passed several bills giving teachers and school staff pay raises, but a petition could put a stop to those raises -- at least temporarily.

"This is people’s money. It’s going to affect middle class and the lower class,” said Ronda Vuillemont-Smith. She is a founding member of Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite, which was formed a little over three weeks ago when the Oklahoma Legislature started working on bills increasing taxes for Oklahoma citizens.

Now, their goal is to halt those bills.

"Our goal is ... to get House Bill 1010XX and possibly others that do the most harm to the taxpayers placed on the ballot to allow the people to decide whether or not they want to fund it in this way," Vuillemont-Smith said.

Their goal is to use a veto referendum, which means creating a petition and collecting a little over 41,000 signatures. If successful, those bills would be placed on "hold" and voters would get to make their own decisions on the November ballot.

Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite is already formulating its game plan.

"Probably use volunteers predominantly, and work it real hard for a few weeks," Vuillemont-Smith said. "I don’t think 42,000 signatures is going to take us that long to collect."

Currently, the petition is being filed with the Oklahoma Secretary of State. After that, the group has 90 days after the end of the legislature’s second special session to collect the signatures.

"There’s ways that we could give these raises [to teachers] without ever having to raise taxes on the citizens," Vuillemont-Smith said.

Oklahomans KTEN spoke to have mixed opinions.

"They need to support their schools and their teachers and their children," Diane Edgemont said. "They’re our future."

But Jimmie Wright says he favors letting voters review the decisions made by their elected representatives. “I feel the people should probably have a say in it, so maybe they should hold off on it," he said.

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