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Capitol Insider: No Teacher Pay Raise Bill, Budget Hole Remains, Loveless Resigns

Apr 28, 2017

What happened at the Capitol this week?

No Teacher Pay Raise Bill Passed

Lawmakers did not pass a teacher pay raise bill, despite both the House and Senate saying they want to pass a measure.

Thursday was the deadline for bills to have passed both chambers, except for legislation that comes from the Joint Committees on Appropriations and Budget.

Sen. Jason Smalley, R-Stroud, who was supposed to introduce a bill on the Senate floor that would give teachers a $6000 raise over three years, did not introduce the bill.

“Smalley said he thought it was irresponsible to put [the pay raise bill] on the floor when no funding had been identified,” eCapitol News Director Shawn Ashley said in his weekly interview with KGOU’s Dick Pryor.

Lawmakers have not tackled the problem of how to find money in the state budget to pay for a teacher pay raise.

The bill Smalley was supposed to introduce originated in the House. It is often referred to as the “1-2-3” bill because it would give teachers a $1000 raise the first year, $2000 raise the second year and a $3000 raise the third year.

Legislators also neglected to pass a Senate pay raise bill that would have given teachers a four percent raise. The bill never left the House’s budget committee the week of April 17, and lawmakers gave no explanation.

Senator Smalley said he will support the teacher pay raise bill if legislators can find a way to fund it, and House Speaker Charles McCall said lawmakers would use the first $52.6 million raised through funding bills to pay for it, but they have yet to announce a formal agreement.

Senate Budget Committee Chair Kim David said the teacher pay raise should not be funded at the expense of agencies, but the current House plan would cut other state agencies to pay for a teacher pay raise.

Lawmakers Continue To Try To Fill Budget Hole

The budget committees in both the House and Senate took up bills this week to increase state revenue, including a bill that would increase vending machine fees and a bill that increases taxes on cigars.

Ashley says those small funding bills generate tens of millions of dollars for Oklahoma, but does not fill the state’s nearly $900 million budget hole.

Loveless Resigns

State Sen. Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City, abruptly resigned Thursday. Loveless is under a criminal investigation for alleged misuse of campaign funds and his reporting of those funds.

Senate Pro Tem Mike Schulz accepted the resignation and will notify the governor. There will be a special election to fill Loveless’ vacant Senate seat.

What’s next?

The budget committees in the House and Senate will continue to work in the coming days to raise additional revenue, and are expected to take up major proposals and sales tax exemptions.

FULL TRANSCRIPT OF THIS WEEK’S CAPITOL INSIDER INTERVIEW:

Dick Pryor: Shawn, an important deadline for approving bills on the floor of the House and Senate passed on Thursday without a teacher pay raise bill advancing. Both houses say they want a teacher pay raise. So what happened?

Shawn Ashley: Well, a little over a week ago the House Appropriations and Budget had its deadline for considering Senate bills in committee and they did not take up the Senate’s version, which was a four percent pay raise. They did that without any explanation.

Over on the Senate side, on Thursday, Senator Jason Smaller, who’s the Senate author of the House plan, the 1-2-3 plan--which gives a $1,000 raise the first year, a $2,000 raise the second year and a $3,000 raise the third year--chose not to run the bill.

Sen. Smalley said he thought it was irresponsible to put it on the floor when no funding had been identified for paying for the teacher pay raise, which would cost about $52.6 million the first year. As a result, the bill was not heard and at this point in the legislative session, while a teacher pay raise has been a big issue, we don’t have a live bill dealing with it.

Pryor: So what happens next? Will there be any common ground?

Ashley: It’s hard to say. Sen. Smalley, for example, expressed his support for the plan if it had funding. House Speaker Charles McCall has said that a teacher pay raise is at the top of the House Republicans’ agenda and that they would use the first $52.6 million that was raised through various bills affecting tax credits, exemptions and deductions to pay for it. But they’ve yet to formally announce an agreement.

Pryor: How much money could actually be raised?

Ashley: That’s an interesting question, because as we saw Thursday, the House Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget and the Senate Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget took up a number of measures to increase revenue.

Some of these increase the fees on vending machines. They increase the taxes on cigars, for example, and a variety of smaller changes like that that amounted to tens of millions of dollars.

This is far from the nearly $900 million of the budget hole that needs to be filled to provide agencies with the necessary funding for state services.

Pryor: So where do the budget negotiations stand will really about three weeks left in the session?

Ashley: I think they’re far from an agreement.

You have the House saying that they will fund a teacher pay raise with that first $52.6 million. You have Senate pointing out, though, that we need to fill the budget hole first.

Senate Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget Kim David said that they teacher pay raise really should not be funded at the expense of other agency, which is exactly what the House plan proposes to do. They would have to cut agencies further in order to fund teacher pay raises.

Pryor: In other news at the state capitol, state Sen. Kyle Loveless abruptly resigned on Thursday. He’s under a criminal investigation for his alleged misuse of campaign funds and his reporting of those funds. How are lawmakers responding to that news?

Ashley: Well it was really interesting to watch.

He announced his decision during a meeting of the Senate Republican caucus on Thursday morning and as they left, you would not know that he had done that.

As they went to the floor, there was no mention of the issue. The only way you really knew was that his name had disappeared from the voting board at the front of the chamber and his desk was empty.

Capitol Insider is a collaborative news project between KGOU and eCapitol. As a community-supported news organization, KGOU relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online, or by contacting our Membership department. eCapitol is legislative news and bill tracking service. Online content is available via subscription.