OKLAHOMA CITY – Sen. Ron Sharp filed legislation Wednesday to better compensate Oklahoma’s teachers.
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 fringe 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 getting in office,” said Sharp, R-Shawnee. “The difficulty the legislature is facing, however, is lack of revenue. Our economy has struggled in recent years giving us no money to go towards new expenses such as 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 either create new sources of revenue, which will require some kind of tax increase – something that Oklahomans have let us know they are against – or take money from other areas to pay for the raises.”
Revenue 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 state do within general sales tax; increasing the motor fuel tax (Oklahoma is 47th in the nation at 17 cents per gallon); or further eliminating some tax credits. He noted that eliminating tax credits is difficult because of competing with other states that offer incentives to attract new businesses and keep existing ones. Sharp pointed out that Indiana increasing their tax credits kept major employer Carrier Heat and Air from relocating to Mexico.
“We’re in a bind. There is no easy solution when our economy is so weak. We know Oklahoma families are struggling financially so increasing taxes is difficult and eliminating tax credits could cause companies to leave our state taking much-needed jobs with them,” 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 convenes Feb. 6.