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Legislative Committees To Take Up 'Step Up Oklahoma' Plan

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State lawmakers are expected to pass a series of bills in committee Thursday that would raise taxes and give teachers five thousand dollar annual pay raises. State lawmakers are expected to pass a series of bills in committee Thursday that would raise taxes and give teachers five thousand dollar annual pay raises.
OKLAHOMA CITY -

State lawmakers are expected to pass a series of bills in committee Thursday, that would raise taxes and give teachers $5,000 annual pay raises. 

There are bills to increase taxes on wind energy and coal production. Income taxes will be impacted by another bill, and yet another bill will raise the taxes on tobacco. That was a sticking point in last year’s budget negotiations.

“Hopefully those bills will pass out.” Governor Mary Fallin said, “We’ll be able to start moving forward in our state, solving a lot of our budget crisis issues, reforming our state government and really move Oklahoma forward.”

Read Related Story: Gov. Fallin’s Final State Of The State Address Focuses On Budget Fix

Representative Dennis Casey (R) Appropriations and Budget Vice Chair was asked if the votes are there to pass the package.

“Right now, our focus is getting it out of committee and seeing what happens there,” he said.

Democrats believe the bills will pass out of the Republican controlled committee, but they doubt whether there are enough votes in the full House of Representatives.  

“What we’re gonna [sic] see next week when it comes up on the floor is going to be all for show because the leadership and the group that’s putting it forward knows that the votes aren’t there to pass it,” said Representative Eric Proctor (D) Tulsa.

Proctor said there is a lot of pressure from Step Up Oklahoma business leaders.

Read Related Story: Community, Business Leaders Make Call For Reform Before Legislative Session

“There’s a lot of arm twisting, a lot of arm pulling and a lot of threats that are being made for retribution politically,” Proctor said.

Backers say they’re not getting behind the plan because they’re being threatened politically. They say they’re behind it because the state needs the cash, and teachers need raises.

Read Related Story: Reactions: Oklahoma Education Coalition Endorses ‘Step Up Oklahoma’ Plan

“There’s a sense of pride of knowing what’s right and you just know what we’re paying’s not right. You feel it in your bones,” Casey said.

The bills are expected to pass in a House committee Thursday, then pass in a Senate committee. If that happens, the full House of Representatives could take up the measures early next week.

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