OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla.—A petition campaign led by former U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn is threatening to nullify the $6,100-a-year pay raise Oklahoma teachers won after their walkout last spring. Coburn’s group, Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite, is collecting signatures for a ballot referendum that would void the about $430 million in tax increases on cigarettes, motor fuel, and energy production that the state legislature approved to fund the teachers’ raises. It needs to collect about 41,250 signatures by July 18 to get the referendum on the November ballot. Professional Oklahoma Educators, a nonunion organization of school employees, has asked the state Supreme Court to rule the petition illegal. It argues that repealing the tax hikes would kill the teachers’ raises, which are necessary “for the immediate preservation of the public peace.” The last time a popular referendum voided a state law was in 1954, when voters repealed a highway-project bill, but in 2016, voters rejected a one-cent increase in the state sales tax by a 59%-41% margin. Read more


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