Fallin signs hotel-motel tax repeal
Gov. Mary Fallin signs legislation Tuesday, April 10, 2018, that generates additional dollars for K-12 public education. (Provided)

Gov. Mary Fallin has signed three finance-related bills sent to her Friday by the Legislature: an expansion of tribal gaming; sales tax collection from third-party Amazon vendors; and a repeal of the recently passed hotel-motel tax.

Fallin’s action on the hotel-motel tax means one of two purportedly final demands from the Oklahoma Education Association to end the ongoing teacher walkout will not be met.

“The revenue package that funded the teacher pay raises would not have passed the Senate with the required supermajority, or three-fourths support, had a bipartisan agreement not been struck to repeal the hotel-motel tax,” Fallin said in a statement Tuesday.

Friday, the Senate sent three bills — HB 1012XX, HB 1019XX and HB 3375 — to Fallin’s desk. Minutes later, Oklahoma Education Association president Alicia Priest announced that OEA was asking Fallin to veto HB 1012XX, which repeals a new $5-per-room hotel-motel tax that was passed as part of HB 1010XX a week earlier.

“We are calling for the governor to veto that repeal and for the House to put Capital Gains tax on and to pass that,” Priest said Friday. “Those things will allow for the walkout to end.”

Fallin had five legislative days in which to act on the bills, and her press release Tuesday discussed the education budget that lawmakers passed ahead of an April 1 statutory deadline.

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 HB 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.”

Background for hotel-motel tax repeal

Thousands of teachers have been advocating for additional education funding since Monday, April 2. Roughly 25 percent of the state’s 512 school districts closed school that day to launch the state’s first teacher walkout since 1990. While some districts have returned to classes, the state’s largest districts remained out the entire week.

The Tulsa World reported Tuesday that more than 500,000 students remain out of class.