Whatever your view on State Question 779, a measure on the November ballot that would provide much needed raises for teachers and other funding for education, it has generated discussion and counter suggestions on the state and local level.
"This is an INSULT to your profession," Oklahoma educators speaking out about proposed 'pay raise' bill https://t.co/yEM3K3gMM4
— KFOR (@kfor) May 17, 2016
The latest proposal thrown into the mix Tuesday by some Oklahoma legislators, according to the media, is to raise the state sales tax from 4.5 to 4.9 percent while expanding the tax to cover more services and goods. The money generated supposedly would be used to give the state’s teachers, based on seniority, raises of $5,000 (one to five years service), $7,500 (six to 10 years service) and $10,000 (11 years or more experience). SQ 779, which would generate $615 million annually, would give $5,000 raises to all teachers and provide other funding for public schools, higher education and career tech. It would raise the state sales tax from 4.5 to 5.5 percent.
I will state the obvious: The new teacher-raise proposal, which would also be a ballot question for voters in November, would have never happened, except for SQ 779. Of course, and here’s the catch, legislators actually have to vote in favor of teacher raises. Is it even real?
The Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) opposes the proposal in its present form because it apparently caps typical job benefits, such as health insurance, as well. OEA calls it “a smoke and mirrors kind of bill.” I fully agree with the description because of the benefits issue raised by OEA and other reasons.
The new proposal will immediately be deemed regressive by the state’s think tank and a handful of pundits on the left. Lower income people DO spend more of their money percentage-wise on taxable goods and commodities, such as groceries. Everyone gets it. The right, for the most part but there could be notable exceptions, will oppose both SQ 779 and the new proposal, if even viable, on the overall conservative anti-tax mantra. They WANT a broken Oklahoma with an underfunded school system, and they already have it. But, see, they want even more cuts to education, social services and health programs so they can make Oklahoma their own right-wing experiment, like Kansas. The conservatives have broken Oklahoma, and they want to break it even more.
Legislation introduced for teacher raises as high as $10,000 https://t.co/UWgsuIZ7FU
— NewsOK (@NewsOK) May 17, 2016
Those people involved in the services and or the selling the goods proposed to be taxed under the new proposal will also most likely oppose it.
The proposal, contained in two bills, was supposed to be heard by the House Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget Tuesday, but was removed mysteriously from the agenda supposedly because a clerical mishap placed them on the agenda in the first place, the media reported. Right. According to The Oklahoman reporter Rick Green, writing on NewsOK.com, House Speaker Jeff Hickman was in favor of the specific part of the plan to raise salaries for teachers up to $10,000 but he said it was just ”one iteration of a plan.”
A supposed clerical error and “one iteration of a plan” probably means this isn’t a serious proposal or at least it means it’s not going anywhere, but the concept is interesting nonetheless. It limits the sales tax increase when compared to SQ 779, and it does focus on fixing a crucial, historical problem in Oklahoma. But what didn’t get discussed was the mechanics of the proposal. The new tax money generated by the increase makes sense on a basic logical level, but there’s no direct correlation between teacher salaries and the specific services and goods now to be taxed. How does taxing the services of swimming pool cleaning and pest control, for example, relate specifically to teacher raises? Why would exterminators as a group, or other groups now to be taxed, which represent a broad swath of the population, support the proposal? The plan seems designed to fail. In order for the raises to work, this new money would have to be dedicated to the raises exclusively, right?
I suspect that (1) this is a political and media stunt to show how conservative legislators supposedly care about inadequate education funding and the need for teacher raises when they don’t, and (2) if it ever did make it to the ballot it would it be widely opposed by various interests and thus get lumped in with SQ 779 thus splitting the vote of people in favor of raises for teachers on the two measures. What if both ballot questions passed? That’s complicated, isn’t it?
The legislature is set to adjourn by a week and a half from today, and now here comes this major proposal as the state faces a $1.3 billion shortfall next fiscal year. We don’t even know if it’s a real proposal or not or just some idea floated for a day or two or maybe a nefarious way to cap health insurance and retirement benefits for teachers. It’s last-minute shenanigans as usual at the state Capitol.
— Yes For 779 (@YesFor779) May 14, 2016