Oklahoma House Passes Teacher Pay Raise Plan, But Teachers Union Says Walkout Is Still On

Mar 26, 2018

UPDATED: 11:14 p.m.

A revenue package that included several tax increases passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives Monday night, the first time a tax increase has passed the House in 28 years.

It was a late night for the Oklahoma House of Representatives in an effort to avoid a teacher and public employee walkout next week. After several failed attempts over the last 17 months to find funding for a teacher pay raise, Democrats and Republicans struck a deal over the weekend.

Some legislators, like Democrat Regina Goodwin of Tulsa, reveled in the positive atmosphere.

"I just want to say that this is the first time being on this floor that I’ve felt some kind of bipartisanship."

To fund pay raises for teachers, school support staff and public employees, lawmakers passed bills that would raise taxes on cigarettes, oil and gas production, hotel rates, and motor fuel. In addition, the raises will be funded by adding ball and dice games at casinos and reduce itemized deductions.

Some legislators, like Republican John Bennett of Sallisaw, weren’t happy.

"How many times have we seen these tax increase bills rolled out to us over the past year we’ve been in session? Well, here’s a plan, we’ll do this one. Here’s a plan, we’ll do this one. Here’s a plan, we’ll do this one, having complete disregard for the citizens."

The revenue bill did get 79 votes in the house, enough to pass with the required super majority. It now moves on to the Senate for consideration.

The package of bills gives teachers raises between $5,000 to $7,000, depending on their experience, and increases pay for school support staff and state employees.

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister watched House members debate from the gallery during the late-night session. Afterwards, she said she was grateful for lawmaker’s efforts.

"Teachers have not had competitive pay in over a decade, and today was a giant step forward."

The passage of the series of bills were meant to stave off a statewide teacher walkout, but it’s not clear if it will be enough to stop a statewide teacher walkout.

Several education organizations supported the bill and the state’s largest teachers union — the Oklahoma Education Association — said it’s a step in the right direction. But, the union wants a $10,000 pay raise over three years, and this plan falls short of that. If lawmakers don’t hit the $10,000 mark this session, the union wants assurances lawmakers will increase pay over the next two years.

As it stands now, a teacher and public employee walkout is still planned to start April 2nd.

UPDATED: 10:06 p.m.

House Bill 1023XX passes by a vote of 98 to 1. The bill provides annual pay raises of $5,000 to $6,000 to roughly 50,000 teachers, speech pathologists, and librarians, depending on years of experience.

It is the largest teacher pay raise in Oklahoma history, according to Rep. Michael Rogers (R-Broken Arrow). Rogers says, with this raise, Oklahoma will move up to 34th nationally in teacher pay.

UPDATED: 9:55 p.m.

House Bill 1026XX passes by a vote of 91 to 8. The bill provides across the board pay raises of $1,250 for school support staff.

UPDATED: 9:47 p.m.

House Bill 1024XX passes by a vote of 90 to 9. The bill provides raises for state employees in the amount of $2,000 for those who make less than $40,000 per year and smaller raises for those who make more.

There was some confusion after the vote, as the third reading was the description of another bill. The vote had to be rescinded, then an amendment had to be added to the bill and read again. The House then voted on the bill again and it passed again, this time by a vote of 93 to 6.

UPDATED: 9:44 p.m.

House Bill 1018XX passes by a vote of 77 to 22. The bill limits the amount of tax stamps cigarette retailers can purchase before the new cigarette tax is put into effect.

UPDATED: 9:41 p.m.

House Bill 1016XX passes by a vote of 97 to 2. The bill creates the State Health Care Enhancement Fund.

UPDATED: 9:37 p.m.

House Bill 1015XX passes by a vote of 99 to 0. The bill applies existing exemptions to the motor fuel taxes to the new taxes passed in HB1010XX.

UPDATED: 9:34 p.m.

House Bill 1014XX passes off the floor by a vote of 88 to 11. The bill moves fuel tax into the Roads Fund, while moving the equal dollars of income tax out of that fund and into general revenue.

UPDATED: 9:28 p.m.

House Bill 1013XX, which expands tribal gaming to include ball and dice games, passed the House floor by a vote of 72 to 13. It only needed 51 to pass.

UPDATED: 9:18 p.m.

House Bill 1010XX, a key revenue bill, passed the House floor by a vote of 79 to 19. It cleared the three-fourths requirement needed to pass revenue bills in Oklahoma. This bill was considered by many as absolutely necessary to be able to fund the pay raises sought by teachers and state employees.

The bill would raise cigarette taxes by $1 per pack, increase gross production taxes on oil and gas wells to five percent for the first three years, then seven percent after that, and increase hotel/motel taxes by $5 per night.

UPDATED: 8:03 p.m.

While there is some bipartisan support for the revenue package, Oklahoma Education Association—the state's largest teachers union—says even if it passes, the teacher walkout will happen on April 2nd.

Meanwhile, CCOSA (the professional association for Oklahoma school administrators) and the Oklahoma State School Boards Association have voiced their support for the funding package.

UPDATED: 7:34 p.m.

The House is taking up HB1010XX, which would provide the funding for pay raises for teachers, education support staff, and state employees through taxes on cigarettes, oil and gas, and hotels and motels.

The bill is projected to raise more than $447 million for fiscal year 2019, according the Rep. Kevin Wallace.

The first bill of the night has been passed. HB3705 provides $2.9 billion in funding for the State Board of Education.

ORIGINAL POST:

A potential statewide teacher walkout is planned for Monday, April 2nd, if lawmakers don't provide funds for raises for teachers and educational support staff, as well as a restoration of education funding. Some state workers are planning on joining the teacher walkout to demand raises for those in their ranks.

The Oklahoma House is expected to hear a dozen bills over the next several hours, in order to raise revenue to prevent a teacher and state worker walkout.

Here's what we know about those bills:

HB1023XX

Under this bill, teachers would receive a $5,000 to $6,000 annual pay raise, depending on years of experience.

HB1026XX

This bill would create across the board pay raises of $1,250 for school support staff.

HB1024XX

This bill proposes raises for state employees in the amount of $2,000 for those who make less than $40,000 per year and smaller raises for those who make more.

HB1010XX

This bill does several things:

  • Cigarette taxes would increase by $1 per pack. This would raise money for raises by offsetting healthcare costs.
  • Gross production tax would increase to five percent for the first three years and then go up to seven percent, unless State Question 795 passes. If SQ795 passes by a vote of the people, the first three years would be two percent, plus the five percent provided for by the state question.
  • The hotel/motel tax would increase by $5 per night.

The success of the pay raise plan hinges on this bill.

Language for most of these bills have not been made public yet through official state-run websites, but Rep. Jason Murphey (R-Guthrie) has tweeted out a link to HB1010XX, via Google Drive.

HB1013XX

This bill would change state gaming rules to allow for ball and dice games. Revenue would help fund raises.

HB1015XX

The bill would increases gas taxes by 3 cents a gallon and diesel taxes by 6 cents a gallon to help fund raises.

HB1012XX

This bill would make wind tax credits be capped at $35 million for all wind farms in the state. This would keep revenue in state coffers for raises.

HB3705

This bill would provide funding for the state Department of Education for fiscal year 2018-19. The Oklahoma Constitution requires the state legislature to pass a budget for education by April 1st every year, but lawmakers have only passed such legislation before the deadline once, but the Governor vetoed that.

HB1016XX

This bill creates the Health Care Enhancement Fund, which would dedicate more funding exclusively to health care.

HB1011XX

Language for this bill is not yet available. The title addresses itemized deductions.

HB1014XX

Language for this bill is not yet available. The title addresses the roads fund.

HB1018XX

Language for this bill is not yet available. The title addresses cigarette excise tax enforcement.

We will be updating this post as we learn more.