The Oklahoma Education Association has specified two demands to end the statewide teachers’ strike that has closed Oklahoma schools for seven days.
The teachers demand that Gov. Mary Fallin veto a bill that would repeal a $5 state hotel/motel tax and that lawmakers pass a bill to repeal a state capital gains exemption and use the savings there for education funding.
We agree with the teachers that Fallin should veto the effort to repeal the hotel/motel tax. The tax was part of a bipartisan deal to raise taxes and fund teacher pay. The deal had several moving pieces, all of which were essential to getting the 75 percent supermajority to pass the tax hike.
Immediately reneging on part of that deal with a simple majority (and leaving the funding for the teacher pay in doubt) is bad government. It will make future compromises all the more impossible.
We also agree that the capital gains tax exemption should be repealed. We’ve argued for months that the tax incentive can’t be shown to help the state economy and that it overwhelmingly benefits the wealthiest taxpayers. Eighty-six percent of the tax breaks went to people making at least $200,000 a year, according to a study by PFM, a consultant to the Oklahoma Incentive Evaluation Commission.
Eliminating the tax incentive passed the Senate by a 3-to-1 margin, and, frankly, it shouldn’t even be controversial.
We’re not completely comfortable with the OEA using the strike as its weapon to force specific policies. Frankly, we think a more successful position would be to emphasize the what — adequate funding of education — not the how.
But, independent of what you think about the strike, the hotel/motel tax should not be repealed and the capital gains tax incentive should be.