Historic teacher pay raise achieved
The achievement of a teacher pay increase of at least $5,000 per year has been a top priority for the Chamber the past two years. Although we were not in complete agreement with all of the new revenue measures which will be used to fund it, we are pleased an annual teacher pay increase of $6,100 (on average) was accomplished. It was desperately needed to retain and attract high quality teachers in Oklahoma. The $447 million revenue plan that passed the House on March 26 and Senate on March 28 represented a historic outcome: it was not only the first tax increase passed by the Legislature since State Question 640 was adopted in 1992, it also funded the largest teacher pay increase in state history.
Although the "Step-Up Oklahoma" plan was not enacted, it paved the way for the revenue-generating legislation that was ultimately enacted. The Step-Up proposal included a revenue package of approximately $700 million and would have provided teachers an immediate $5,000 pay raise. The plan was the product of significant compromise and was supported by many groups across the state including energy companies, the Chamber and the Oklahoma Education Association. However, HB 1033XX, the $581 million centerpiece revenue measure of Step-Up OK, failed to receive the supermajority required in the House on Feb. 12.
The revenue package ultimately enacted, contained primarily in HB 1010xx, raised the following taxes: 1) increased Gross Production Tax (GPT) from 2 percent to 5 percent for the first 36 months of production; 2) increased the cigarette tax by $1.00 per pack; 3) increased the gasoline tax by three cents per gallon and the diesel tax by six cents per gallon; 4) assessed a $5 per night hotel/motel occupancy tax (later repealed); 5) modified state tribal gaming compacts to allow Vegas-type gambling in the form of ball and dice games; and, 6) required internet sellers to collect and remit sales tax on Oklahoma sales.
The Chamber also supported SB 980, which will create new teaching career ladder to enable teachers to increase pay while staying in the classroom. The legislation creates a new process for teachers to earn Lead and Master Teaching certifications, which provide additional responsibilities and pay for highly qualified teachers. SB 980 was approved by Gov. Fallin on May 7.
For more information, please contact Mark VanLandingham.