The Oklahoma legislature faces an approximately $880 million budget shortfall, and proposals to increase revenue have not gained traction. Meanwhile, the House passed a bill this week that would incrementally increase teacher pay.
House Bill 1114 passed through the Oklahoma House on Tuesday. The bill proposes a $6,000 teacher pay raise that will be implemented over the course of three years. The raise will begin with a $1,000 increase this year. In the 2018-2019 school year, salary will increase by an additional $2,000, and pay will rise by another $3,000 in 2019-2020.
eCapitol news director Shawn Ashley told KGOU the House and Senate seem to be at odds with each other over funding the pay raise.
“The House has taken the position that they would like to move forward with a teacher pay increase even if they have not filled the budget hole. On the Senate side, however, the Senate President Pro Tem Mike Schulz says that they are committed to filling the budget hole before they begin to look at a teacher pay raise,” Ashley said.
Tax increase proposals to raise revenue have not gained traction in the legislature.
Gov. Mary Fallin’s proposed $1.50 cigarette tax increase to go toward Oklahoma health care has been put on hold, as Republican lawmakers express their opposition to increasing taxes.
Some legislators are concerned about funding state agencies if revenue raising measures are not passed.
Rep. Leslie Osborn, R-Mustang, has predicted a 14.5 percent cut to state agencies if no tax increase measures are passed, a teacher pay raise is enacted, and education funding remains flat.
“Not every agency’s going to get a 14.5 percent cut under even her scenario, I don’t believe, because you would have agencies like the healthcare authority and mental health that would see their budgets cut not as much and that burden would have to be shifted elsewhere,” Ashley explained.
The House passed House Bill 2298 on Thursday to end Oklahoma’s Zero Emission Tax Credit. This would sunset tax credits wind energy facilities receive beginning July 1, 2017.
When asked why legislators would end wind energy credits and not oil and gas credits, Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols cited the increased amount of money oil and gas puts into the state compared to wind.
“Sen. Marty Quinn, a former House member, pointed out in debate on the Senate floor this week that those [wind tax] credits were essentially like shoveling money out the back door and had contributed to some of the problems that the legislature was having with its budget,” Ashley said.
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