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Proposed Half-Percent Sales Tax Hike Would Fund $5,000-10,000 Teacher Pay Raises

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Jacob McCleland

Updated May 18, 5:20 p.m.

Two bills regarding a teacher pay raise in the Oklahoma House were apparently a mistake. The Tulsa World’s Randy Krehbiel reported the bills were not intended to be added to Tuesday’s Appropriations and Budget Committee agenda.

Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, said two bills released Tuesday morning that call for boosting teacher pay by up to $10,000 a year while cutting benefits and raising the state sales tax, were early drafts of legislation that has been worked on this session, and he said final versions may or may not be heard in the coming days.

The bills, which were presented as an alternative to David Boren’s one-cent sales tax increase for education, were widely discussed across the state through the day Tuesday. Many people were surprised at the quick development, including some lawmakers.

Hickman said even he was confused when committee substitutes to House Bills 3213 and 3214 began appearing in representatives’ email inboxes shortly before 10 a.m. Tuesday, with the notation that they had been added to the agenda of a 1 p.m. Appropriations and Budget Committee meeting.

The bills never made it to the meeting and they were removed from the agenda before it began.

Original Post

Lawmakers are considering raising Oklahoma’s sales tax in order to fund teacher pay raises.

Under this new legislation, teachers would get a $5,000-$10,000 raise depending on their experience. Teachers with 0-5 years of experience would get the $5,000 bump, 6-10 years would receive $7,500, and more than 11 would get $10,000.

House Bill 3214 also says no part of the allocation can go toward pension or Social Security contributions from the district, state Rep. Brian Renegar, D-McAlester, said in a statement Tuesday.

The raises would be funded by an increase in the state sales tax from 4.5 to 4.9 percent. Funding would also come from a new tax on some services. Utility services like water and sewer use would be taxed, landscaping and auto repair, and online services like movie, music and book downloads.

If lawmakers pass the bill, it will go to a vote of the people in November.

The proposal is similar to one championed by University of Oklahoma president David Boren, who is pushing for a one-cent sales tax increase in order to fund $5,000 pay raises for teachers. That proposal, which is estimated to generate about $615 million annually, would fund other aspects of education too.

In graduate school at the University of Montana, Emily Wendler focused on Environmental Science and Natural Resource reporting with an emphasis on agriculture. About halfway through her Master’s program a professor introduced her to radio and she fell in love. She has since reported for KBGA, the University of Montana’s college radio station and Montana’s PBS Newsbrief. She was a finalist in a national in-depth radio reporting competition for an investigatory piece she produced on campus rape. She also produced in-depth reports on wind energy and local food for Montana Public Radio. She is very excited to be working in Oklahoma City, and you can hear her work on all things from education to agriculture right here on KOSU.
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