Senate Passes Historic Funding Bill For Teacher Pay, State Employee Raises

Wednesday, March 28th 2018, 8:51 pm
By: Aaron Brilbeck

The Senate passed the largest tax increase in state history to fund teacher pay raises and education needs. But, the Oklahoma Education Association says it isn’t enough and teachers still plan to walk out on Monday, April 2.

Under the plan, the average teacher will see an average of $6,100 more per year – more than teachers demanded.  

The $447 million plan passed with a vote of 36-10 and without debate. Governor Mary Fallin and lawmakers congratulated each other on reaching what has been, up till now, an unachievable three-fourths majority needed to raise taxes.

“Didn’t happen overnight. We’ve been doing this for about 15 months now, trying to find that right combination,” said President Pro Tempore Mike Schultz.

The funding plan includes a tax increase on fuel and tobacco, a $5-per-room tax on hotels, and an increase on the gross production tax to 5 percent.

But, the House is set to repeal the $5-per-room hotel tax, which the Senate considered a deal breaker.

"We have identified some other funding sources. This bill left us with a little bit of extra and we've identified another funding source," said Schultz.

That source - increased taxes for online purchases.

Read Related Story: State House Members Pass Bills For Teacher, State Employee Raises

The House will vote on the repealed bill Thursday.

The governor says she plans to sign the bill and hopes teachers return to the classroom Tuesday.

"I hope that they can come up here and say thank you on Monday and go back to the classrooms," said Gov. Fallin.

Despite the historic passing of this tax bill, the Oklahoma Education Association says educators will still participate in a walkout and "descend" upon the Capitol Monday, April 2.

Teachers say this bill falls short because, they still need more money for their classrooms, for books and equipment. 

"You know everybody says, 'Hey, it's a start' and everyone tends to be happy likes wants to do a victory lap about this, but I'm disheartened," said Denara Manning, Edmond teacher.