OKLAHOMA CITY - State lawmakers passed a series of bills that would raise taxes by $712-million and offer teachers $5,000 annual raises. 

If the proposal passes as is, this will be the largest tax increase package in the state’s history.  Backers say they’re not happy about it, but it’s necessary to get the state out of its financial dire straits.

A House committee passed eight bills Thursday, including an increase in the tobacco tax and a $1.50 more for a pack of cigarettes; a 6-cent increase in the fuel tax; an increase in the gross production tax, that’s the tax on oil and natural gas production, from two to four percent; and caps on tax incentives for coal, rail and wind energy.

All those increases will raise $581-million dollars.

“Myself as a republican this is probably one of the most uncomfortable positions that I’ve been in in many many years and if I vote for this I’ll hold my nose and do it in the name of the greater good,” said Representative Todd Russ (R) Washita County.

Representative Kevin Wallace (R) Committee Chair said, “If we absolutely do nothing then our three healthcare agencies will shut down. Period. I mean it’s going to be catastrophic.”

The committee also passed a bill changing the structure of income tax collections. That will raise another $131-million. Backers say it will give breaks to the poor and middle class, easing the burden of the increase in the fuel tax by restoring the earned income tax credit and freezing the current standard deduction.

“For married couples earning $50,000 or less, single earning $25,000 or less, or head of household for 37-5 or less.  Evryone else has a slight reduction in their standard reductions,” Representative Wallace said.

Opponents say backers are rushing the bill through without trying to reach a compromise.

“We’re in the first week of the regular session now. To move forward without having a compromise now, just having what’s basically a political game taking place I don’t think is positive for the state of Oklahoma,” Representative Eric Proctor (D) Tulsa.

The bills all passed in a Senate committee and now go to the full House of Representatives. That will happen Monday.

Since they include revenue raising measures, 76-votes are needed to pass the bills.  Sources told News 9 about 66 representatives have agreed to back it, with several still undecided.

The revenue raising bills will run first. If they fail, the House will not take up the teacher pay raise bill.

Editor’s Note: David Griffin, president and chairman of Griffin Communications, parent company of News 9, is a member of Step Up Oklahoma. To learn more about the plan, visit StepUpOklahoma.com.