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Oklahoma lawmakers consider bills on teacher pay, tax increases

OKLAHOMA CITY - Lawmakers in both House and Senate committees have passed eight bills, which would raise taxes and give teachers $5,000 raises in annual pay.

If ultimately passed and signed into law, House Bill 1033 would increase taxes on wind energy, motor fuel and tobacco, which has been a sticking point in recent budget negotiations. It would also raise the gross production tax from 2 percent to 4 percent.

It is projected to bring in more than $581 million.

Rep. Eric Proctor, D-Tulsa said, despite passing in the House's budget committee, he does not believe it will reach the 76 votes needed to cross the finish line.

"There’s a very strong conservative contingent within the House republican caucus that will not support the plan, and you have a very strong blue collar democratic contingent that wants to see the bill be more fair," Proctor said. "It is immoral, to me, that a janitor that cleans up the capitol at night pays more in taxes than Devon Energy. A janitor pays 5 percent and Devon Energy, under this plan, pays 4."

At Thursday's committee meeting, some House republicans expressed their concerns over parts of the bill.

"This is probably one of the most uncomfortable positions I’ve been in many, many years," said Rep. Todd Russ, R-Cordell. "If I vote for this, I’ll hold my nose and do it in the name of the greater good."

House budget committee chairman Rep. Kevin Wallace, R-Wellston said the bill was about compromise.

"Do I love this package? Absolutely not. Do I think it’s the right thing to do for the state? Absolutely, so I’m asking you today to be a leader and move this state forward," Wallace said.

House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka said they are confident in the bill's chances.

"I believe that if the Democratic caucus in the House brings as much support as they did for the A+ package in special session that this plan has a very good chance of passing the House of Representatives," McCall said.

House lawmakers also passed a bill adjusting the earned income tax credit, which is projected to bring more than $131 million.

House Bill 1033 is expected to be voted on by the full House on Monday.