State Lawmakers Plan To Stave Off Teachers Strike
OKLAHOMA CITY - The Oklahoma Education Association is giving the legislature an April 23 deadline to come up with a plan for raises, or teachers will strike.
State lawmakers are working to stave off a teacher strike. Legislative leaders met with the governor and discussed ideas Tuesday morning after they failed to reach the 75 percent majority needed to raise taxes for a teacher pay increase.
So, they’re discussing a more creative approach; reducing the amount of taxes teachers pay.
“There are meetings with the democrats going on but there’s also meetings with the Republicans,” said Representative Jon Echols (R) Majority Floor Leader. “There’s some options that can be done in the next couple weeks to give teachers a pay raise and I hope those things get done.”
Among those options - exempting teachers from income tax and changing deductions for teachers. “Which deals with some of the deductions that people are allowed to take. We’ve talked about looking at some exemptions from income tax,” said Governor Mary Fallin.
That could lead to the equivalent of a raise, albeit not as large as teachers and lawmakers had hoped.
“Because it will take more than that.” Governor Fallin said, “Tax exemption on income tax won’t cut it alone, but it will help.”
Republicans are also considering an increase in tax on oil and natural gas production called gross production.
“You could look at the possibility of solely a GPT vote. There’s several options that are on the table out there. Hopefully those things get passed this week,” Echols said.
Senator Greg Treat (R) Majority Floor Leader said, “Unfortunately, House Democrats stood in the way of progress. The House Democrats stood in the way of a teacher pay raise.”
Democratic Representative Emily Virgin (D) Democratic Caucus Chair replied, “It’s amazing that the blame game is still happening and that we’re being blamed for standing up for working Oklahomans and not wanting to tax them more.”
Blame game aside, lawmakers hope they can pass something in the next few weeks to keep teachers in the classroom and off the picket lines.
“I don’t know.” Treat said, “I hope we can.”
Legislative leaders say they hope to begin presenting revenue bills to pay for teacher raises in the next week.