Tensions are rising inside the Oklahoma State Capitol. 

As House Republicans have aligned with Gov. Kevin Stitt’s $800 million education funding package, which includes teacher pay raises between $2,000 and $5,000 and tax credits for private school tuition and homeschool expenses. The Senate has refused to follow suit. Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat said last week that his caucus wants fewer funds allocated to the Oklahoma Student Fund, which would allocate up to $2 million per school district for improvements.

The Senate on Thursday afternoon advanced a series of education-related bills to give teacher pay raises, establish a tax credit system for parents of private and homeschooled students and provide eight weeks of maternity leave for teachers. Unlike the House’s education plan, each of the five bills passed are standalone items and not tied to each other. 

Meanwhile, Stitt has vowed to veto any Senate legislation whose author is unsupportive of his plan. Among the more than 20 bills Stitt vetoed last week include measures to loosen requirements for college athletes to sign NIL deals and extend funding for the Oklahoma Education Television Authority through the middle of 2026.

Pushing back against the vetoes in a late Thursday hearing, the Senate refused to confirm two Stitt nominees for cabinet positions. In his weekly press availability Friday morning, Stitt said he’s optimistic a deal will get done soon but the vetoes will continue until that happens.

“Until we get tax cuts and parent choice done, we’re not going to do all this other stuff for lobbyists and special interest groups,” Stitt said.

Lawmakers can override a gubernatorial veto with a two-thirds majority in both chambers or a three-quarters majority for bills with an emergency clause. While the Senate voted to override the rejection of a healthcare appropriations bill on April 19, the House has yet to seek a reversal of a gubernatorial veto. 

The House and Senate have also yet to agree on proposed tax cuts, which Stitt has listed as a priority of the legislative session. House Bill 2285, which would lower the state’s personal income tax rate from 4.75% to 4.5% and raise the standard deduction for single and married filers, failed to clear the Senate by last Thursday’s deadline for bills to pass out of their opposing chamber. 

Legislative leaders could seek to revive income tax cuts through a process called shucking. That played out last week in the House when Speaker Charles McCall gutted the contents of a bill dealing with mental health counseling and replaced it with language tying teacher pay raises to the passage of tax credits for parents of private and homeschool students. 

As the deadlock over education policy drags on, budget negotiations have stalled. The clock is ticking on that front. To avoid a special session, the Legislature and the governor’s office need to reach and agreement by Friday, May 26.

I’d appreciate your feedback as we enter the final stretch of the legislative session. Are you frustrated by the stalemate? What kind of coverage would you like to see from Oklahoma Watch in the coming weeks? Let me know at Kross@Oklahomawatch.org

What I’m Reading This Week

  • Bill Would Exempt Natural Gas from State Price Gouging Law: The legislation comes as Oklahomans continue to question why the natural gas industry wasn’t subjected to a price gouging investigation following the February 2021 two-week winter storm that forced public utility companies to purchase gas at record high prices.[CNHI Oklahoma]
  • Oklahoma Bill Banning Gender-Affirming Care for Trans Youth Heads to Governor’s Desk: Senate Bill 613 would punish doctors found in violation of the law by having their licenses revoked and charging them with a felony that could result in up to $100,000 in fines or 10 years in prison. Opponents of the legislation warn that lawmakers are “inflicting cruel and intentional harm” on transgender youth. [KOSU]
  • Oklahoma Board Denies Clemency for Death Row Inmate Glossip: The Pardon and Parole Board deadlocked 2-2, meaning it won’t recommend that Gov. Kevin Stitt grant clemency to Glossip. During the hearing, attorney general Gentner Drummond testified that doesn’t believe Glossip received a fair trial. [Associated Press]

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