Oklahomans headed to the ballot box for a special
election Tuesday, Sept. 13, and crushed an effort to boost the state’s fuel
taxes to help fix roads and bridges.
State Question 723 was soundly defeated statewide with
87 percent of voters rejecting the proposal to boost Oklahoma’s per gallon tax
on diesel and gasoline to 22 cents. Currently, the diesel tax is 14 cents per
gallon and the gasoline tax is 17 cents per gallon.
The tax increase would have been phased in gradually
over four years.
Even supporters of the effort admitted it faced tough
odds, especially with fuel prices setting record highs over the past several
About 290,000 Oklahomans signed petitions early this
year to get the issue on the ballot. But that was when prices at the pump were
about $1 below Tuesday’s average of $2.64 a gallon for diesel and $2.79 for
The effort anticipated garnering revenue estimated at
$150 million annually for improving state roads and bridges. A provision sought
to 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.
“No one will deny that our roads and bridges are not
all in top form,” Katy Anderson, a spokesperson for Oklahoma Taxpayers United,
a group that opposed the proposed tax increase, said recently 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 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 doles out $2.8
billion to Oklahoma in the next six years.