Oklahomans will head to the ballot box Sept. 13 for a special election
to decide whether to boost the state’s fuel taxes to help fix roads and
If approved by voters, State Question 723, would raise the Oklahoma’s diesel and gasoline fuel taxes to 22 cents a gallon. Currently, the diesel tax
is 14 cents per gallon and the gasoline tax is 17 cents per gallon.
The tax increase would be phased in gradually over four years.
The anticipated revenue, estimated at $150 million annually, would be
earmarked to improve state roads and bridges. A provision would lock in the
amount the Oklahoma Department of Transportation now receives from fuel taxes
so that lawmakers couldn’t reduce appropriations in response to additional
funds the agency would get from the tax hike.
The ballot initiative is the result of an effort by Oklahomans for Safe Bridges and Roads. The group collected nearly 290,000 signatures on a petition early
this year to get the measure on the ballot.
Oklahoma Taxpayers United, formed to oppose the measure, is drawing
support from truckers.
“No one will deny that our roads and bridges are not all in top form,”
Katy Anderson, a spokesperson for Oklahoma Taxpayers United, said in a written
statement. “But the fact of the matter is that our legislators have already
taken great steps to begin fixing the problem.”
Oklahoma lawmakers this spring approved a deal to
eventually pump $170 million more each year into road and bridgework without
The new law, previously HB1078, adds at least $17.5 million a year for
the state Transportation Department.
The plan includes a “lockbox” provision intended to keep future
legislatures from diverting the new money from roads and bridges.
The added revenue source for roads and bridges is coupled with the
recent passage of the federal highway bill that will dole out $2.8 billion to Oklahoma in the next six years.
With prices at the pump continuing at or near record levels and the
additional dollars earmarked for Oklahoma roads and bridges, the push to tack
on higher fuel taxes in the state appears to face an uphill climb to win over
According to a poll by SurveyUSA released by KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City, 80 percent of respondents in the Sooner State will vote “No” in next month’s special election.
However, those poll results aren’t deterring the advocates for higher
In an effort to get the initiative approved, the Oklahomans for Safe Bridges and Roads have raised more than $1 million for a media campaign scheduled to
kick off in late August or early September, The
Associated Press reported. Its major donors are contractors and
others involved in highway and bridge construction.
Anderson said the media blitz is simply a desperate
attempt to manipulate voters, despite the fact extra revenue is already
earmarked to the state for roads and bridges.
“The passage of additional unnecessary taxes in an economy that is
already depressed will have a devastating effect on the transportation industry
and must be stopped,” Anderson said.
Rick Craig, director of regulatory affairs for the Owner-Operator
Independent Drivers Association, which is encouraging professional truck
drivers in Oklahoma to make sure they cast a ballot on or before Sept. 13, said
it’s important truckers make time to vote.
“The opinion poll would seem to indicate this initiative
will go down in flames, but opinions don’t count until they are expressed at
the ballot box. The self-serving, pro-tax forces have amassed a sizable war
chest and cannot be taken for granted,” Craig said.
Truckers and others unable to visit a polling booth on Election Day can
cast their ballot by absentee. The last day to apply for an absentee ballot is
Wednesday, Sept 7. For an application, visit: www.state.ok.us/~elections/abs_yell.pdf.
Applications can also be picked up at any county election board and turned in
to the board in person or by mailing or faxing it. Ballots must be returned by
7 p.m. on Election Day.
Oklahomans who have yet to register to vote have until Friday, Aug. 19,
to sign up to vote on State Question 723. Contact your local election board for
more information. For a list of election boards in the state, visit: www.elections.state.ok.us/cebinfo.html.
– By Keith Goble, state legislative