State Supreme Court Hears Arguments On Teacher Raise Funding Petition
OKLAHOMA CITY - The Oklahoma Supreme Court Monday afternoon heard arguments about whether to repeal tax increase to fund teacher pay raises.
Backers of the repeal say the tax hike isn’t necessary. Opponents say without it, teachers won’t get promised raises.
Justices heard arguments for and against the petition to repeal House Bill 1010xx, the funding mechanism for teacher raises.
Backers say the state has the money to pay for raises without the tax increase. Opponents say the tax increases were passed to fund education, and if the tax is repealed it will lead to an education crisis.
"Specifically passed in extraordinary circumstances to fund a state crisis in state education,” said Blake Sonne, Attorney for Association of Professional Educators.
The Association of Professional Educators argue the petition is unconstitutional; that the legislature, by a three fourths majority, legally passed the tax increases. And a ballot initiative, they say, will have dire consequences.
Attorneys for Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite! disagree.
"The repeal of 1010 will not result in the loss of the teacher pay raises. How will it be funded mister bowers? It will be funded as we see we are going to have a significant surplus in the state and that our receipts in the past month May and June are expected to be some of the highest ever,” said Barrett Bowers, Attorney for Taxpayers Unite!
Sonne replied, "We honestly can't sit here today and pretend house bill 1010xx was not specifically passed with the purpose to fund Oklahoma public education and the teacher pay raise bill."
Barrett said, "Our position is teachers get the money regardless. That is what our position is. 1010xx is just a source of funds. There are other sources of funds that can be used to fund that teacher pay raise."
Justices recessed without deciding, but they know a quick decision is necessary.
"Because school districts across Oklahoma right now are telling their teachers these raises don't go into effect. They're awaiting the outcome of this court,” Sonne said.
House Bill 1010xx raised taxes on cigarettes, motor fuels and some oil and gas production.
Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite has until July 18 to collect about 42,000 signatures have the repeal of the tax bill placed on a statewide ballot.