What the "Step Up" plan could mean for taxes, teachers and Oklahoma
TULSA, Okla. (KTUL) —
It’s a simple demand from Oklahomans to lawmakers: fix the budget and pay our teachers.
For years, Oklahoma legislators haven’t figured out how to do that. The latest solution on the table is the “Step Up” plan.
“I get very concerned when there’s so many things put on the table at the same time because legislators are used to taking one issue at a time,” said former Tulsa Mayor, Dewey Bartlett.
Bartlett said teachers need a pay raise, and the $5,000 extra a year is an important step in the right direction. However, there are about a dozen new tax hikes with the "Step Up" plan, which can set the stage for a lot of problems.
“How can we be confident that the government is going to officially spend that money properly?” asked Bartlett.
“We would argue this is a failed experiment,” said David Blatt, with the Oklahoma Policy Institute. “What’s happened in the last ten years was the idea if you keep ratcheting down taxes, prosperity would follow.”
Blatt said if the plan is passed, the new taxes won't have a huge impact on regular Oklahomans. However, he said there will be an argument about whether certain industries, like Oil and Gas, are paying their fair share.
“The consensus on what the exact right mixture of taxes, that remains elusive,” said Blatt.
“I don’t know anybody in this business that ever drilled a well purely based on tax policy,” said Bartlett, who is an oilman himself. “People drill where there’s demonstrated oil and natural gas.”
Both men agree the "Step Up" plan isn’t going to fix everything. Oklahoma still has a spending problem that can’t be fixed by just “stepping up.”