OK Lawmakers Disagree Over Potential Teacher Pay Raises

Thursday, March 9th 2017, 5:50 pm

The state house of representatives this week passed a bill to give teachers raises, but they did not include a way to pay for it. Now Republican leaders disagree about whether that raise will actually happen. 

Under the bill, teachers would receive a $1,000 raise in the fall, a $2,000 raise next year and a $3,000 raise the third year for a total of $6,000. The question is: How will these raises be funded?

The state will have to come up with about $53-million for every $1,000 teachers' salaries are raised. That's at a time when lawmakers are trying to find the money to fill a roughly $900-million budget hole. And when state agencies are being told to brace for 14.5 cuts in funding. 

Appropriations chair Leslie Osborn (R-Dist. 47) says the raise is possible through a combination of tax increases in services; restructuring taxes, like credits on wind energy; borrowing and surplus funding.

"Which is special cash, cash that builds up in our cash reserve because we only appropriate 95-percent of what comes in tax wise. So, there's always a 5-percent cushion. We would also be looking for a potential bonding project for the department of transportation for part of their dollars. Bonding rates are low," said Osborn.

Senate leaders say they doubt the votes will be there in the House or the Senate to raise taxes. As for the house bill to give teachers raises…

“I think it's giving a lot of people a lot of false hope that we're going to find the money to do it," said President Pro Tempore, Mike Schulz.

Senate leadership says they expect to have a framework for giving teachers raises in place this year, but whether teachers will actually get raises remains to be seen.