Special legislative session to discuss teacher pay raises would cost more than $30,000 a day

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OKLAHOMA CITY-- $140 million could go toward teacher pay raises, but it would require lawmakers to go into special session.

Officials tell Newschannel 4 it would cost somewhere between $30,000 and $34,000 a day to bring lawmakers back for a special session.

Those in favor of coming back say it's important enough to get teacher pay raises done now.

Opponents say this is a last ditch effort to get raises done before voters can go to polls this fall to vote on a state question.

"I think it is a good investment. Even though there will be some expense associated with the special session, I think it's a good investment to get this right," Sen. David Holt said.

The idea to get more than 40,000 Oklahoma teachers a raise got nowhere last session.

Now, Gov. Fallin could bring lawmakers back to try again.

"They know full well that the last 8 years, when oil was $100 a barrel, if they truly cared about increasing teacher salaries they could've done it.They had super majorities, all the votes they needed to accomplish it, and they never did anything about it," House Minority Leader Scott Inman said.

To put it in perspective, every day of a special session would cost taxpayers nearly a year's salary for a teacher.

Opponents call it a game, in a part, to appease business leaders who are against the penny sales tax on the ballot this fall. If that passes, the sales tax in many cities would jump to around 10 percent.

"It's an effort to not only pander to teachers to get them to believe we're going to take care of you, just give us a chance, don't do this tax increase, but it's also a way to pander to those businesses saying maybe if they muddy the waters up on this issue enough, maybe the measure will fail in November," Inman said.

Right now, the state finance office is working on a plan to give full time teachers a $5,000 raise.

"The surplus funds would only provide anywhere between $2750 to 3500, so it's only the foundation of a package. It's not going to be the total package. There's got to be some other ideas on the table to get there," Holt said.

And to get there, they'd have to do something pretty big, like eliminate some tax breaks, or a approve a cigarette tax hike, which went down in the spring.

The $140 million is money the state didn't expect to have this year.

The legislature would have to find it in the budget next year to sustain the raises.

The last time the legislature went into special session was 2013 to address tort reform after a Supreme Court ruling.