OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin on Tuesday (April 10) signed a measure that allows expanded casino gaming for Oklahoma’s Indian tribes. The measure comes with increases in the state’s “exclusivity fees” which tribes with gambling operations send to the state government.
The governor also signed House Bill (H.B.) 1012XX, which repeals a $5 tax on hotel and motel rooms.
According to a press release from the chief executive’s staff, the “ball-and-dice” approval and one other measure “are estimated to replace the revenue to help fund teacher pay raises and increased education funding” pulled back as a result of her veto of the hotel/motel levy.
Fallin signed H.B. 3375, which allows tribal casinos to use traditional roulette and dice games, which were specifically prohibited since a 2004 vote of the people. Fallin’s press release contends that measure will “put substantial additional dollars into education.”
The governor also signed H.B. 1019XX, which will require third-party online retailers to collect and remit sales tax back to state coffers. It will affect purchases made through sites like Amazon, when the seller is someone other than Amazon. It is estimated to bring in about $20.5 million for public schools.
The House of Representatives and Senate voted to repeal the hotel-motel tax, which was included in a larger revenue package, HB 1010XX. That bill raised a variety of revenue to pay for an average $6,100 teacher pay raise – the largest teacher pay increase in state history – and added $50 million in new revenue for textbooks and school supplies.
“The revenue package that funded the teacher pay raises would not have passed the Senate with the required super majority, or three-fourths support, had a bipartisan agreement not been struck to repeal the hotel/motel tax,” Fallin said.
The governor and the Legislature have in the last two weeks supported significant tax increases to boost funding for K-12 public education.
Fallin last month signed HB 1010XX, part of a revenue package to fund pay raises for teachers. The package allows for a $6,100, or 16 percent, pay raise on average for Oklahoma teachers. According to the governor’s analysis, that measure will move Oklahoma’s teacher pay up from the lowest, in average teacher pay, to second in the seven-state region and up to 29th from 49th nationally.
Oklahoma’s teacher-pay ranking improves to 12th in the nation when adjusted for cost of living.
Last week, the governor signed the $2.9 billion appropriation bill for common education for the upcoming 2019 fiscal year. The funding marks the largest amount ever appropriated in Oklahoma for K-12 public education and a 19.7 percent increase over the $2.4 billion appropriation bill for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.
The $2.9 billion education funding contained in H.B. 3705 includes an additional $353.5 million for teacher pay; $52 million for support personnel pay: $33 million for textbooks: $17 million for the state aid formula; and $24.7 million for flex health care benefits.
“This shows again that education is a priority with legislative leaders and me,” said Fallin. “The single-most important thing we can do to help Oklahomans have fulfilling and productive lives is improving the quality and outcomes of education.”
Fallin said Tuesday’s action should complete funding K-12 public schools for the 2019 fiscal year. She encouraged legislators to turn attention now on other issues, such as criminal justice, and address the financial needs of other core services, such as public safety and health and human services, in finishing work on the 2019 fiscal year budget.
The governor made it clear she supports the voters’ decision in a 2004 statewide election of encouraging investment in Oklahoma through the capital gains tax deduction.
The capital gains tax deduction, which was a tax reform measure approved in a statewide vote in 2004, is an exemption from capital gains taxes for property and business located in the state of Oklahoma.
The idea behind the exemption was to increase the incentive for people to invest in Oklahoma, and to put Oklahoma properties and businesses on an equal footing with other states.
NOTE: Editor Pat McGuigan contributed to this report.