The state Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would give teachers a raise, but without a firm way to pay for it.
The plan is really a big shell game. Raise the price of gas and diesel fuel to pay for road maintenance, then shift the money already earmarked for road projects to education to fund teacher raises. The problem is is the Senate doesn’t have the power to do that.
The bill’s author, Sen. Gary Stanislawski, R-District 35, said the plan “is to increase the gas tax from diesel from 14 cents to 21 cents and unleaded from 17 cents to 23 cents yielding approximately $178 million."
Stanislawski said that would give teachers a 4 percent pay raise. The average pay for teachers is about $38,000, so that would mean a $1,500 raise this year.
That $1,500 raise would cost the state about $78 million. So the fuel tax would raise roughly $100 million more than is needed.
“So this year the excess is going to help fill this budget hole. We all know we’re sitting on approximately 878 million dollar deficit,” Stanislawski said.
“This is the most practical because of the fact that we are 47th/48th in the nation in motor fuel tax. This is something which we can address now. We have to make the move,” said Sen. Ron Sharp, R-District 17.
But opponents say the bill is already DOA. Any tax increases have to be passed by the House of Representatives, and opponents doubt the votes are there.
“These measures give false hope to people who are smarter than that at this point,” Sen. J.J. Dossett, D-District 34, said.
“And you go home and tell people you voted for a teachers pay raise, make sure you put an asterisk next to it and say, but you know we really knew it wasn’t going to happen,” Senate Minority Leader John Sparks said.
Members of the state House of Representatives have already passed a plan to give teachers a $6,000 raise over the next three years, but they did not include a way to pay for it.