OKLAHOMA CITY — A state lawmaker says he will introduce a measure next session to provide for a $10,000 teacher pay raise.
Voters on Tuesday defeated State Question 779, which would have increased the sales tax by 1 percent to pay for a $5,000 teacher pay raise and fund common education, higher education and CareerTech.
“I think it is really important that the Legislature not take out of Tuesday’s defeat of 779 that the people of Oklahoma don’t want a teacher pay raise,” said Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City. “I think the statement was they want the Legislature to do its job and come up with a better plan.
“We will not have the future we want for this state if we let go of the teacher pay issue. It simply can’t be something that we walk away from.”
State Question 779 was brought to a vote through the ballot initiative process and championed by University of Oklahoma President David Boren. It failed by a vote of 59.4 percent against to 40.6 percent in support.
“The voters have spoken, and I’ll be meeting with our new legislative leaders to discuss a course of action on the issue of teacher pay raises,” Gov. Mary Fallin said.
Holt introduced a similar teacher pay proposal last year that did not secure approval.
Holt said his measure will include funding mechanisms.
Several ways of increasing revenue were floated last year, he said. They included expanding the sales tax to items that are taxed in other states but not in Oklahoma, he said.
He said expanding the sales tax is totally different than increasing it.
Last session, Fallin proposed a $3,000 teacher pay raise, but it failed to secure legislative approval.
Holt doesn’t think a $10,000 increase is too much.
“We are so far behind the regional and national average,” Holt said.
He said his plan likely would use a phase-in approach until the full amount is reached.
“I think that the governor’s office will work closely with the House and Senate to develop a plan,” said Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger, Fallin’s chief budget negotiator. “There are a lot of discussions occurring within the building and outside of the building to try to come up with some better options than we saw in 779 for a pay raise.”
Many cities and towns opposed the sales-tax increase because it would hamper their ability to fund future projects. In addition, critics said it hurt lower-income residents more than the middle and upper classes.
“I think that there is going to have to be recognition that there has to be new recurring revenue put on the table,” Doerflinger said.
Expanding the sales tax to services is one option, he said.
Doerflinger said the failure of State Question 779 doesn’t mean voters don’t think teachers need a raise.
“I think one of the signs being sent in that measure’s failing is that the voters want to see the Legislature and us collectively do our jobs,” Doerflinger said. “I think that you will see a desire both in the Legislature and from the governor’s office to come up with a better proposal for teacher pay than what we saw in 779.”
Shawn Hime, executive director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association, said he was pleased lawmakers were discussing the issue.
He said it would cost about $600 million to fund the Holt plan.
Lawmakers last year had $1.3 billion less to spend in crafting the fiscal year 2017 budget due to depressed energy prices, tax cuts and an inability to get rid of tax credits and incentives passed in an effort to create economic activity. A smaller shortfall is expected for next year.