Leveraging the University’s Prestige, OU President Pushing for Tax Increase


University of Oklahoma president David Boren can’t seem to stay out of politics.

In 2008, Mr. Boren endorsed Barack Obama for president. “Our most urgent task is to end the divisions in our country, to stop the political bickering, and to unite our talents and efforts,” OU’s president said at the time. “Americans of all persuasions are pleading with our political leaders to bring us together. I believe Senator Obama is sincerely committed to that effort. He has made a non-partisan approach to all issues a top priority.”

Not only was Mr. Boren wrong about that, he was spectacularly out of step with his fellow Oklahomans. Both in 2008 and 2012 Mr. Obama lost 77 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties. Indeed, in 2012 the sitting president lost (to a pro-life activist) 12 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties in the Democratic primary.

In 2014 Mr. Boren again weighed in from the left, this time with op-eds and expensive full-page newspaper ads denouncing the idea of giving income-tax relief to the Oklahomans paying his salary. The advocacy group OCPA Impact, criticizing Mr. Boren for “leveraging the prestige of one of our flagship universities” in order to prevent tax relief, responded with an ad of its own. Higher education scholar Richard Vedder also pronounced it inappropriate for Mr. Boren to “enter the political fray on such tangential issues as the progressivity of the Oklahoma income tax.”

Comes now an initiative-petition proposal by Mr. Boren to increase the state sales tax by 22 percent, which would make Oklahoma’s combined state and average local sales tax the highest in the country. OCPA Impact is challenging the petition’s constitutionality; Mr. Boren says he is confident the lawyers have drafted it properly. But given OU’s history with breaking the law, one can never be too sure.

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