As Oklahoma educators continue to unite at the Capitol, many may be left wondering exactly where do things go from here?

As Oklahoma educators continue to unite at the Capitol, many may be left wondering exactly where do things go from here?

State Sen. Ron Sharp shared some concerns that not only does there seem to be far less ground left to gain, but any headway that has been made so far could potentially be lost.

“Apparently, with all the demands on revenue, legislative leadership has determined it may not be possible to direct more money into education this session,” Sharp said.

State funds are lacking in many areas.

“Federal scrutiny into the Pinnacle Plan, the necessity to provide funds for the overcrowded corrections system, transportation infrastructure deterioration (due to the neglect for the last 30 years), plus rising costs in teacher and public employee health insurance premiums — all of these problems and more must be funded,” he said.

Another issue is one of protocol.

The Oklahoma constitution requires a 90-day window after enactment before a tax can be collected.

Therefore, Sharp said any tax increase that would be potentially passed would not be available for this next fiscal year's budget that starts July 2018.

“Under that situation, another critical cut in funds from an essential service agency would be required and then to be redirected to public education, if demands were met,” he said.

The vote to pass HB1010xx was not typical — in fact the term historic has been used to describe the event.

Sharp said it is difficult to achieve a three-fourths supermajority threshold with over one-fourth or more of the legislative members that are term-limited or not seeking re-election.

“It was astonishing the House was able to achieve the threshold under the constitution for passing HB1010xx,” he said. “The Senate then ran into a problem when several senators from both parties opposed the Hotel-Motel tax.”

He said that is when a compromise was required to agree to repeal that $5 (room-rate) increase and replace the revenue lost with the ball-and-dice tribal gaming and the third-party Amazon sales tax.

“The 36 senate votes were not there unless this compromise was made,” he said.

From a former high school government teacher's inspection of how government really works to achieve a compromise on a revenue bill, Sharp said this was an eye-opening experience.

“I am concerned that if all the demands are met to be directed to public education, the $300 million state appropriation for teacher retirement will not be available,” he said. “Plus, a cap for teacher health care will be required.”

He said the Teacher Retirement System was only 37 percent actuarial funded in 2008.

“With the state appropriation of $300 million since that date it is now 78-percent funded,” he said. “It would be problematic if this state appropriation was to be unavailable due to a redirection of funding.”

This would result in the robbing-Peter-to-pay-Paul-Effect, Sharp explained.

“That is always a potential problem when a crisis develops,” he said.

Both parties are to blame for this habit, he said.

“When the Democrats were in power they robbed the state pension plans to balance the budget,” he said. “Since 2008, when the Republicans took power all of the agency revolving funds, carry-over funds and the Rainy Day Funds have been robbed to balance the state's budget.”

Now, he said raising revenue has been attempted and accomplished with HB1010xx.

“However, it is doubtful any other attempt so daring can be accomplished without a taxpayer revolt to repeal all of the tax measures,” he said.

A veto referendum (citizens' veto) could overturn the deal that has been made. If a petition secures the 5 percent signatures required — 41,242 — to get on the ballot, Oklahomans could vote the tax hike out.

At the end of March former Sen. Tom Coburn announced a coalition against new taxes and a group called Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite is pushing such a petition.

An Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite Facebook post Monday said, “While we want teachers to receive their raises and education to be funded, we also want the legislature to do it’s job and hunt down, discover and reveal where all the money in Oklahoma has gone.”

But that's not the only threat to the security of HB1010xx, Sharp said.

He said there also is a concern that an attempt to reopen the education appropriation (in an political effort to add additional dollars) could result in the anti-tax legislators capturing it in a parliamentary procedure and not allow it ever again to be voted upon.

“That may be more of an immediate problem than an Initiative Petition to repeal the tax increases,” he said.

Watch for updates.