2017 second special legislative session

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

After months of gridlock and failed deal-making, the Oklahoma House and Senate have passed a nearly $450 million tax package designed to fund raises for teachers and avoid statewide school closures.

Gov. Mary Fallin said she’ll sign the tax package, which fell short of teachers’ demands. Educators still plan to march at the Capitol April 2 to pressure lawmakers to spend more on schools and public employees and continue a debate that has highlighted growing gaps and frustrations over taxes and government.

Emily Wendler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Governor Mary Fallin signed a teacher pay raise into law on Thursday, giving educators their first state-funded salary boost in 10 years. On average, they’ll get about $6,000, but many of them are still walking out of their classrooms on Monday.

 

Mark Webb, a science teacher at Mustang High School, is one of them. He says he appreciates the pay raise but he still wants more money for the classroom.

“We have not funded education properly since 2007,” he said. “And that message has been lost today.”

This Week in Oklahoma Politics, KOSU's Michael Cross talks with ACLU Oklahoma Executive Director Ryan Kiesel and Republican Political Consultant Neva Hill about the State House and Senate agreeing to send the governor a $474M tax increase to fund pay raises for teachers, school support staff and state workers. Meanwhile, the Board of Corrections calls on lawmakers to provide $9M in supplemental funds just to pay bills over the next three months.

Sug Ogrocki / AP

Oklahoma has done something many political watchers didn’t think was possible: the Republican-controlled legislature has approved a tax increase to give teachers a pay raise.

Teachers in the state say they need more money, and they’ll stick to their planned walkout next week. The Department of Education is just one state agency that’s contending with a worsening budget crisis after years of tax cuts didn’t have the results state lawmakers were hoping for.

Updated 8:58 p.m.

After more than three hours of discussions behind closed doors, the Oklahoma Senate made quick work of three bills that would help fund a teacher pay raise package and potentially avoid next week’s teacher walkout.

Senators passed three bills Wednesday night:

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Oklahoma Senate is now considering a package of bills to increase tax revenue to give raises to teachers and public employees. Among the targeted increases are taxes on oil and gas.

On Tuesday, the energy industry showed up to the capitol to rally against the proposal.

Outside the capitol, oil-field workers arrived early in the morning to set up and stoke enormous trailer-pulled grills and smokers to feed the public and legislators, and remind them of the oil industry’s status as a top job-maker.

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.

This Week in Oklahoma Politics, KOSU's Michael Cross talks with Republican Political Consultant Neva Hill and ACLU Oklahoma Executive Director Ryan Kiesel about Governor Fallin bringing an end to the 2018 fiscal year by signing a budget which provides $45M in cuts to agencies, the legislature looks ahead to 2019 facing a shortfall of nearly $170M and a House Committee passes three bills to expand the rights of gun owners.

This Week in Oklahoma Politics, KOSU's Michael Cross talks with ACLU Oklahoma Executive Director Ryan Kiesel and Republican Political Consultant Neva Hill about the failure by the state legislature to pass the Step Up Oklahoma plan on Monday, Interim Health Commissioner Preston Doerflinger stepping down after news surfaced of domestic abuse and Oklahoma City State Senator David Holt easily wins the election for mayor to replace Mick Cornett.

Emily Wendler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Updated Tuesday at 8:37 a.m.

A bill to raise revenue for the Step Up Oklahoma plan failed to get enough votes to pass the House yesterday. The measure received only 63 of the 76 yes votes needed for passage.

During debate, House Speaker Charles McCall admitted the bill wasn’t perfect, but it would fix the issues with the budget.

"A $5,000 teacher pay raise, certainty with our health care, funding for our infrastructure ― these are clearly things that the people of the state of Oklahoma sent us to this chamber to take care of on their behalf."

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