Step Up Oklahoma Plan Fails To Get Enough Votes to Pass House
Updated Tuesday at 8:37 a.m.
A bill to raise revenue for the Step Up Oklahoma plan failed to get enough votes to pass the House yesterday. The measure received only 63 of the 76 yes votes needed for passage.
During debate, House Speaker Charles McCall admitted the bill wasn’t perfect, but it would fix the issues with the budget.
"A $5,000 teacher pay raise, certainty with our health care, funding for our infrastructure ― these are clearly things that the people of the state of Oklahoma sent us to this chamber to take care of on their behalf."
Former Minority Leader Scott Inman opposed the measure and called on supporters of a teacher pay raise to keep up pressure on state leaders to craft a better bill.
"Demand that they offer up a fair and equitable tax structure that doesn't say we're gonna pay for your pay raise by taking it out of your hide. If you'll do that, then this state and the public schools that I fight for - that you fight for - each and every day, and the kids in it, will benefit."
The measure would have raised taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel, tobacco, oil and gas production as well as wind power.
House leadership left the vote open for several hours, but in the end only 53 of the 72 House Republicans and ten of the 28 House Democrats supported it.
Updated 11:06 p.m.
After more than six hours, the vote has been declared on House Bill 1033xx. With 63 for and 35 against, it failed to secure the three-fourths majority needed to pass revenue bills under Oklahoma law.
At a press conference earlier in the night, Speaker McCall said he would keep the vote open until midnight. But, it appears that a compromise could not be made and the vote was closed early.
53 of 72 Republicans and 10 of 28 Democrats voted in favor of the measure.
Updated 10:37 p.m.
During a late night press conference, House Speaker Charles McCall has given Democrats until midnight to change enough votes to pass the Step Up Oklahoma budget plan.
With 63 in favor to 35 against, the bill is still more than a dozen 'yes' votes shy of clearing the 75 percent threshold needed to pass a revenue increase under Oklahoma law.
OPEA will participate in the @OKHouseofReps press conference $67 million has been added to the step up plan for a state employee raise. Is it a perfect plan? No, it is a start and all core services need funding now. If not, more cuts are likely— Oklahoma Public Employees Association (@OklaPEA) February 13, 2018
Updated 8:10 p.m.
Monday was a disappointing day for many Oklahoma teachers, who were hopeful lawmakers would pass the Step Up Oklahoma budget plan. The plan looks likely to fail in the House, and with it, the most recent attempt to give educators a pay raise.
Mustang High School principal Teresa Wilkerson said she felt disheartened.
"I think it sends a message, a very strong message to our teachers, that they’re not as valued as they should be."
Bartlesville teacher, Heather Davis, says she’s starting to wonder if lawmakers will ever increase teacher pay.
"I’m 15 years from retirement. I’ll probably stay here and hope for the best, or if something else comes along that’s just fantastic, I will sadly get out of education."
The Step Up Oklahoma budget plan was put together by a group of state business leaders and calls for a series of tax increases and reforms. Many lawmakers opposed the measure, saying it unfairly burdened the lower and middle class.
Updated 5:30 p.m.
The Oklahoma House has started to vote on a series of tax increases proposed by a group of business leaders, known as Step Up Oklahoma. Right now, there aren't enough votes to pass the plan, 63 to 34 (as of 5:30 pm), but leaders have left the vote open to try to convince lawmakers to support the measure.
Hundreds of educators rallied today to support the series of reforms and tax increases. They packed the House gallery, but crowds dwindled as debate — and the vote — dragged on.
Supporters said this is the only option to bring new revenue to the state and pay for a $5,000 dollar teacher pay raise. Opponents said the measure was written by business and special interests, and they urged other lawmakers to push for a better deal.
Updated 11:51 a.m.
Hundreds of educators are rallying at the state capitol today pushing lawmakers to support the Step Up Oklahoma plan, which the House is scheduled to hear later today. StateImpact's Emily Wendler tells us more.
The halls of the Capitol are crowded and noisy as teachers from across the state target lawmakers, asking them to vote yes on the Step Up Oklahoma plan, which would give every teacher a $5,000 raise. Many of them have said the plan is not perfect, but that lawmakers can’t wait for perfect. They say this plan is better than nothing.
The Step Up Oklahoma plan was written by Oklahoma business leaders and lays out a set of government reforms and tax increases. It calls for raising oil and gas taxes to four percent, and increasing income taxes, among other things. Many Democrats oppose the plan, saying it does not go far enough to fix the recurring problems in the state.
Oklahoma House leaders are hoping to vote on the Step Up Oklahoma plan this afternoon, but its passage isn’t guaranteed. A bill which raise taxes on cigarettes, fuel, oil and gas and renewable energies require 75 percent support from lawmakers, which means it needs help from Democrats.
Minority Leader Steve Kouplen says he and his party have grave concerns about the total amount of revenue and the amount of expenditures in the plan. He says, while Democrats have been in negotiations since December, they haven’t been truly heard and are now being forced to vote for something they don’t like.
"There’s a difference between negotiation and capitulation and it seems like they would sooner us just capitulate and vote for their plan rather than actually negotiate with us to incorporate the ideas that we have."
Kouplen says he has concerns about the extra taxation on wind, solar and other renewable power sources, while still not raising oil and gas production to seven percent. While the party supports a $5,000 increase in teacher pay, he says the budget plan does nothing about four day school weeks or returning school funding to proper levels.