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Governor Fallin considers special session to discuss raises for teachers, Democratic leadership cries foul

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OKLAHOMA CITY– Governor Fallin issued a statement Wednesday on the distribution of 140.8 million dollars that was cut from agency allocations midyear.

The General Revenue Fund reductions were larger than necessary, making the money available.

Governor Fallin is considering holding a special session to consider designating that money to raises for public school teachers.

Without the special session, the money will be evenly distributed between all agencies that receive general revenue allocations.

Fallin said in her statement, “I’ve begun discussions with legislative leaders to consider calling lawmakers to return in special session to address the issue of teacher pay raises. I continue to support a pay raise for teachers, having called on lawmakers at the beginning of this year’s session to approve a teacher pay raise. Lawmakers considered it, but this was an extremely difficult budget year and a funding agreement couldn’t be reached. With this available money, I am again asking lawmakers to act on this important issue of providing a raise for every teacher in this state.”

The House Democratic leadership has a harsh response to this proposal.

Democrat Scott Inman believes the timing on this issue is to take the focus off the upcoming statewide vote on State Question 779, which calls for a penny sales tax to fund a teacher pay increase.

“If the Republicans truly cared about teachers, they would have used their legislative supermajorities to pass a teacher pay raise at any time during the past eight years – when teachers last had a pay raise. And that included years when oil was bringing $100 a barrel,” said Inman.  “Instead, the GOP focused on cutting taxes and authorizing myriad tax credits. We wouldn’t be in this situation if the Governor and the Republicans who control the Legislature had had the courage to roll back those irresponsible tax cuts and tax credits when we were still in session. And, to add insult to injury, the Republicans are once again looking at allocating one-time dollars for a long-term, recurring expense – something that Republican State Treasurer Ken Miller has warned against time and time again – and wasting nearly a quarter of a million taxpayer dollars per week to do it, at a time when our agencies and core services have been gutted.”

Senate Democratic Leader, John Sparks responded to reports that Governor Fallin is considering a special session.

“Once again, Governor Fallin and the Republican majority in the legislature are showing how bad they are at public finance and how good they are at election year political pandering – because that is all this proposal for a special session on teacher pay raises is. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: a special session to figure out what to do with the $144 million in ‘extra money’ the Governor’s finance team found back in June is unlawful and unnecessary. We don’t need to spend taxpayer dollars we don’t have to pass a new law to determine how and where this money should be spent. We passed a budget in May of 2015 which directed how this money was to be spent. The Governor’s finance team needs to simply re-allocate this money back to the agencies to which it was originally appropriated…We need to address the issue of teacher pay and our ongoing teacher shortage. But, this isn’t the way to do it. If the Republicans in the legislature really cared about teachers, they would have passed a pay raise bill during the regular session. But to spend $30,000 a week for a special session to address this issue now using one-time funds is unlawful, unnecessary, inappropriate, and pandering fiscal mismanagement.”