Sen. Ron Sharp has filed legislation for the upcoming legislative session to boost teacher pay. Senate Bill 8 would modify the minimum salary schedule beginning with the 2017-2018 school year to allow for a $5,000 increase in salary and/or benefits.
“Oklahomans made it very clear by getting State Question 779 on the ballot that they believe teachers deserve a raise. As a retired teacher, I know and I’ve authored legislation for an increase every year since being elected,” said Sharp. “The difficulty the legislature is facing, however, is lack of revenue. Our economy has struggled in recent years providing us no money for new expenses like raises. We’ve been fighting just to keep our state agencies afloat with the revenue shortfalls we’ve faced and next year will be no better. We have to create new sources of revenue through some kind of tax increase, which will be difficult with so many Oklahomans struggling; modify tax preferences or take money from other areas to pay for the raises.”
Tax increasing measures require a three-fourths vote by the legislature. Sharp explained that possible new revenue sources could include modestly increasing the general sales tax; taxing selected services, which most states do within general sales tax; or increasing the motor fuel tax (Oklahoma is 47th in the nation at 17 cents per gallon). Other options could include eliminating, reducing or deferring tax credits, exemptions and incentives but the Shawnee Republican noted that any changes must keep Oklahoma competitive with other states and not cause jobs to be lost. He pointed out that Indiana increasing their tax credits this year kept major employer Carrier Heat and Air from relocating to Mexico. The last option would be to reallocate money from other areas of state government to fund the pay raises.
“We’re in a bind. There’s no easy solution when our economy is so weak,” said Sharp. “It won’t be easy and it will require bipartisan support in both chambers but this session we must find a solution and give our teachers the raise they deserve.”
The legislative session will begin on February 6.