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Senate passes teacher pay raise, tax credit bills; fails to reach votes required to fund them

OKLAHOMA CITY - Despite passing teacher pay raises and earned income tax credit bills, the Senate failed to reach the required number of votes to pass a revenue bill to fund the measures late Wednesday night.

Voting on HB 1033XX, a revenue bill, was closed shortly before 11:30 p.m. after the vote stood at 34-12 for more than an hour. Revenue measures require 3/4 majority to pass. The teacher pay raise bill and the EITC bill were contingent on the revenue bill passing.

Three major bills the Senate voted on Wednesday night are:

  • Teacher pay raise bill - SB 133
  • Revenue package - HB 1033XX
  • Earned Income Tax Credit bill - SB 861

The restored Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) bill, SB 861, passed the Senate Wednesday evening with a vote of 42-4.

Sen. Jason Smalley, R-Stroud, presented SB 133, the teacher pay raise bill. It would have applied a 12.7% increase to minimum salaries, totaling approximately a $4,000 increase to the minimum starting salary, along with stepped increases for length of teaching, which passed 35-11, with three Republicans joining all senate Democrats voting against.

The Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) has sought a $10,000 pay raise for Oklahoma teachers over three years, a $5,000 pay raise for support professionals over three years, a cost-of-living adjustment for retirees, and the restoration of funding for education and core government services.

OEA announced that it is tentatively planning a teacher walkout for April 2 if legislators didn't increase teacher and staff pay.

HB1033XX, the revenue bill, would be a $1.00/pack tax increase on cigarettes, a $0.06% increase on motor diesel and gasoline, and an increase of the Gross Production Tax to 4% for the first 36 months of production. The cigarette tax money would have gone towards teacher pay the first year, then a healthcare fund after that; a move that some House Democrats have balked at.

Despite the failure to reach the required votes Wednesday night, Senate Republicans and Democrats are optimistic that a compromise can be worked out in the coming days.