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Okla. House Speaker says teacher pay raise, budget measures priority as Dems call focus into question

OKLAHOMA CITY – With the deadline for legislators to introduce legislation now up, house majority and minority leaders are laying the groundwork for what’s left of this legislative session.

“I’m very happy at the conclusion of the fourth week of this legislative session, with the work and accomplishments that our entire body has achieved at this point,” said House Speaker Charles McCall to reporters during his weekly press availability Thursday afternoon.

Now that the Real ID Act has been moved through the gears of the state capitol, McCall says teacher pay raises and budget measures, like tax credits, will be a legislative priority.

“The bills and the legislation that I am most concerned with are those that our caucus has identified as a priority,” said McCall, R-Atoka. “The House has identified teacher pay raise to be a priority.”

McCall says the teacher pay raise plan, as it is right now, is a phased-in approach that would span three years, calling for a $1,000 pay raise that would start next school year, with incremental raises of $2,000 and $3,000 each consecutive year.

As far as the state’s nearly $900 million budget shortfall, McCall said that will be a priority as well, looking to address the gap through budget apportionments.

“We can change our approach to the budgeting and the structure of our state finances and fix a lot of that hole,” he said. “There’s just got to be a will to do it.”

Earlier Thursday morning, House Democratic Minority Leader Scott Inman questioned Republicans’ will to address those very same issues during a news conference.

“Republicans in charge have no plan,” said Inman, D-Del City.

Inman called the approval and signing of the Real ID law evidence that the state capitol can work, but only when it wants to.

"It's a clear sign that when it came to what was really important to the Republicans in charge, such as making sure people could get on an airplane, they got that legislation done. But when it comes to funding public education, rural hospitals, transportation and infrastructure, they have no plan."

Inman says Democrats will be looking at their own revenue raising measures in the coming days and weeks to help provide a solution to fill the budgetary hole.