OKLAHOMA CITY – Just days after a teacher pay raise measure was approved by the House and the Senate, lawmakers are already making changes to the plan.
Earlier this month, the Oklahoma Education Association announced that it is seeking 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.
If the walkout occurs, schools across the state have announced that they will close.
HB1010XX, a $447 million tax increase plan, passed the House late Monday evening by a vote of 79-19. It needed 76 votes to pass as a revenue-raising measure, which had not been done since 1990.
House 1010XX includes:
- 5 percent gross production tax (GPT)
- Motor fuel tax: 3 cents on unleaded, 6 cents on diesel
- $1 tobacco tax, rather than $1.50 as previously proposed
- $5 hotel/motel tax on any room booked in Oklahoma.
The plan offers an average $6,000 pay increase for all teachers, but it starts at $5,000 for first-year teachers and is expected to gradually increase over time.
On Wednesday, the Oklahoma Senate narrowly approved a similar funding package to help pay for teacher pay raises.
However, the bill called for the hotel/motel tax to be repealed.
Gov. Mary Fallin was set to sign the measure around 3 p.m. on Thursday, but the signing was pushed back while lawmakers debated the amendments.
Around 3 p.m. the Oklahoma House of Representatives voted to repeal the $5 hotel/motel tax over concerns it would negatively impact tourism. The hotel tax would have brought in $47 million in revenue.
Supporters say removing it would not impact teacher pay raises, but House Democrats voiced concern over how that money will be replaced.
“It took almost 30 yrs for the Oklahoma legislature to raise taxes and literally 72 hrs to turn around and cut them. And we wonder why the public doesn’t trust us. For four hours today the Oklahoma House held a procedural vote open, allowing a bill to run to cut $50 M of the revenue we passed on Monday. All while this was happening Oklahoma teachers, support staff, and state employees were doing their actual jobs and hoping the legislature would simply do what we took so much credit for doing on Monday. It’s embarrassing and the reason why politics are so dysfunctional. Blaming a party, another chamber, a member you don’t like, etc.. is not an excuse for misleading the public.
The fact is the revenue package is now short the amount of money needed to fund the promised raises. The raises are now statutory and must be paid. Therefore a portion of the raises will come from cuts to other government agencies unless more new revenue is passed to replace what was cut. I am so incredibly frustrated by the lack of transparency and the ease with which folks in this building shirk responsibility. That being said I will continue to push for common sense policies that provide a future in Oklahoma for all our citizens that is better than the history of our past,” said Rep. Jason Dunnington.
“Well, in the most blatant bait and switch I’ve seen so far in my term as a legislator, the plan that was passed by the House on Monday and the Senate last night is already being partially repealed to the tune of $50 million dollars. That means less money for common education and core governmental services. It’s not even law yet, and they’re already cutting revenue, which I’ll remind you is what got us in this mess in the first place. #theyalreadycut250millionfromcommoned,” Rep. Collin Walke posted on Facebook.