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Oklahoma Senate gives final OK to tax hikes for teacher…

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – A package of tax hikes including oil and gas production to generate hundreds of millions of new dollars for teacher pay and avert statewide school closures has been given final legislative approval by the Oklahoma Legislature.

The Senate voted 36-10 late Wednesday to increase taxes on cigarettes, fuel, lodging, and oil and gas production – narrowly receiving the three-fourth’s majority needed to pass. The House already passed the plan, which is designed to generate about $450 million for lawmakers to spend, and Gov. Mary Fallin said she “absolutely” plans to sign it.

“We finally got the job done, and I applaud the bipartisanship of the House and Senate,” Fallin said just moments after the Senate passed the bill.

It includes a $1-per-pack tax on cigarettes, a 3-cent increase on gasoline, 6-cent hike on diesel and a hike on the oil and gas production tax from 2 percent to 5 percent. Amid a furious, last-minute lobbying effort by the hospitality industry, House and Senate leaders agreed to pass a separate measure to repeal the $5-per-night hotel and motel tax that was projected to raise about $45 million.

A separate bill to increase teacher pay by an average of about $6,100 also cleared the Senate on Wednesday, along with another revenue-raising measure to cap itemized income tax deductions.

Oklahoma teachers, who have not had a raise since 2007, have set a statewide walkout for Monday to pressure lawmakers. Oklahoma would be the second state this year where teachers walked out. West Virginia educators won a 5 percent pay hike after going on strike.


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