We have a lot of lessons to learn from this legislative term, but there may be nobody around to teach them if Dallas keeps poaching our high school educators.
The latest example of “how has it come to this?” is the Oklahoma House leaders’ plan for teacher pay raises. The plan after much consideration is to replace a sales tax with a sales tax. Not as much of a tax at face value, but apparently another measure that robs Peter to pay Paul.
Along with a sales tax increase of one-tenth shy of half a cent, the funding would come from eliminating certain sales tax exemptions and a cap on teachers’ health insurance benefits.
This would oppose the penny sales tax that will be on the November ballot.
Both plans still deserve intense inspection. The penny tax has a lot of money going to other places than to high school teachers, but it’s still their preferred measure.
CNHI reporter Janelle Stecklein writes that many teachers aren’t buying the second proposal, saying it’s not really a raise, if you take other funds away from teachers.
Somebody, somewhere, is going to get money taken away from them. That’s how taxes work.
There is a finite amount of money in Oklahoma. With no new revenue streams from emerging industries there is only the shuffling of money to look forward to. Can we kick the oil industry when it’s down?
It may be too late to look back now, but it should educate us for the future. A Reuters article from Tuesday reports the tax breaks given to horizontal drilling were far deeper than those in opposing oil-rich states, and grew to beyond $1 billion in just a three-year span.
The impatience is growing to fix the budget, but we need to keep these lessons of the lean times if we ever find ourselves in high cotton again.