The State House of Representatives passed a $447 million teacher pay plan Monday night, the first tax increase of its kind to pass in the House by a required 75 percent majority since that law was instituted in 1992. But, that’s just one hurdle and it still has a long way to go.
The bill still has to pass in the Senate before going to the governor’s office. That is a tall order.
Senators are OK with the tax increases on fuel and tobacco and they’re still mulling over an increase in the tax on oil and natural gas production, called gross production, from two percent to five percent.
“We’ve taken up the cigarette and the fuel already here, so it’s predetermined what we think about that. We haven’t taken up the five percent number. We’re still talking to our caucus, talking to the minority caucus on that,” said Senator Greg Treat (R) Majority Floor Leader.
Senate sources say lawmakers are not happy with a $5 per room tax on hotels and motels. That could be a deal breaker.
“That is not popular among chambers,” said Senator Ron Sharp (R) Shawnee. “But again, that’s part of the package. We do not dare amend this because I’m fearful if it goes back to the house what might happen.”
Any changes the Senate makes to the bill would have to go back to the House for a second vote and it would have to, again, meet that 75 percent vote threshold.
Oil producers are lobbying senators to vote against the bill.
“This legislative body needs to do its job and not use our industry and other industries as an ATM machine and just constantly raise taxes,” said OIPA Chairman Berry Mullennix.”
Teachers advocates say it’s a step in the right direction and will draw more young people into teaching.
“If you know that you’re going to be making up in the 50-60 thousand range after you’ve been teaching for 25 years then that will make you want to pursue a career in education,” said Judy Mullen Hopper of the Parent Legislative Action Committee.
Senator Sharp, a retired teacher himself, said this is the best deal teachers are going to get. If the bill passes and teachers still walk out, “If they’re walking they need to come up here and thank their representatives and senators for voting for this,” Sharp said.
If the Senate runs the bill on the floor Wednesday and there are no changes, it could be on the governor’s desk by the end of the week. But if it doesn’t run Wednesday or there are changes, it may not go forward before teachers plan to walk out April 2nd.