Weekly Opinion Editorial
HERE ON HTRAE
by Steve Fair
On Monday night, the Republican led state House of Representatives passed HB #3705 by a vote of 94-6. The bill appropriates $2.9 billion to common education (K-12) the next fiscal year. This is the earliest the Oklahoma legislature has passed an education budget in several years.
Debating into the evening, the House also voted 79-19 to approve HB #1010, which if passed by the Senate and signed by the Governor, will raise gross production tax to five percent, add a dollar tax on a pack of smokes, add three cents on gasoline and six cents of diesel and tack a five dollar fee on hotel/motel stays.
The revenue raised will be used to raise teacher pay by an average of $6,000 a year ($5,435 a year for a starting teacher/$9,268 for one who has taught 25 years), and give school support staff a $1,500 annual raise and state employees a $1,800 a year raise. During debate, State Representative Kevin Calvey, (R-OKC) argued that #1010 was virtually the same bill Oklahoma voters rejected in November 2016 on a statewide ballot and it was a cinch the 45,000 signatures needed will be gathered to put it on the November 2018 ballot for repeal consideration. With Continental Resources Chairman Harold Hamm in the House gallery, Calvey went on to contend that raising the Gross Production Tax from 2% to 5% will cost oil/gas jobs in the state.
The Oklahoma Education Association established an April 1 deadline for lawmakers to pass a $10,000 teacher pay raise or state teachers would walk out of classrooms. It remains to be seen if the passage of these bills will stave off the threatened strike by educators, since it falls short of what their demands were.
The disappointing thing is once again the education lobby won because self-described fiscal conservatives in control of the legislature caved. Education didn’t have to agree to consolidate administrative services, school districts, or submit to comprehensive audits of school districts. They just threatened to walk-out and lawmakers caved. No Oklahoman disputes teachers in Oklahoma deserve a raise, but so do the butchers, bakers and candlestick makers. Unfortunately, those people can’t afford to stage a walk-out because they can’t afford to take the day off. They have to work to pay their taxes.
Republicans traditionally have been known for smaller government and fought for citizens to keep more of their hard earned money, but here on planet Htrae, Republicans perform exactly the opposite of what you expect. On this cube-shaped planet we now live on, you can expect elected officials to contradict logic and adhere to the Bizarro Code. Voting doesn’t match their campaigning. Press releases and public speeches contradict their actions. It is no wonder the average citizen thinks politics and politicians are crooked, dirty and unethical- after all, we’re on Htrae.