By Rep. Rick West
Throughout the last few weeks, I’ve been hearing from people who say that I don’t support teachers. That’s just not true.
Over the past five months, I’ve been working my tail off on House Bill 3440. This is the measure that directs the Commissioners of the Land Office to essentially double down on its mission of supporting common education. Just last year, the CLO had more than $175 million in unrealized gains. Why not take a portion of that money and put it toward teacher salaries?
This measure would help get educators the raise they deserve while protecting low- and middle-income earners from higher taxes. It would not take away or divert any money schools are already receiving, and it is constitutional. This is the right bill to help our teachers out.
My colleague Rep. Gann has led the charge with this bill, and I’m proud to stand by him. By the time you read this (due to print deadlines), HB3440 should have been heard on the House. My intention is to follow the measure through until I see Gov. Mary Fallin’s signature on the bottom line. Teachers deserve a raise they don’t have to fund themselves.
In addition to HB3440, the House has also approved bills that generate funds to help fund a teacher pay raise. For example, I voted on HB3375 last week, which reworks our tribal gaming compact. Estimates show this should raise about $24 million in the upcoming fiscal year. The House’s Romney-lite bill (HB2403) is awaiting a hearing in the Senate. That could generate $106 million annually. There are options on the table. Let’s get them done.
Instead of demanding vulnerable Oklahomans hand over more of their paychecks, why don’t we consider all other options? Let’s do something with the bill verifying Medicaid enrollment and save some cash there.
It feels a little ridiculous to even have to say this, but here it goes: I would not have spent so many hours working on the CLO bill if I didn’t believe our teachers deserve the best. I am for teachers. I am for quality education –primary, secondary and post-secondary.
I had the pleasure of attending the Southeastern Oklahoma State University’s legislative luncheon with Carl Albert State College regents on March 10. Speaker Charles McCall and I were both there, and I am grateful for the conversations I had with attendees. Your concerns and hopes for our higher education system are not lost on me. I’m fighting for you every day.
One final note: I also stand with state employees. I plan to support an increase to retirement systems when it hits the floor later this week. This measure will provide a bit of relief for many of our LeFlore County residents who dedicated their careers to the state, and I will gladly support any bill that provides our retirees a cost of living adjustment.
As a reminder, I’m on KPRV Thursday mornings at 7:35 catching listeners up with what’s happening in Oklahoma City
You can always reach me at or 405-557-7413. Thanks, and God bless.