Oklahoma House targets oil, gas wells to boost teacher pay - KTEN.com - Texoma news, weather and sports

Oklahoma House targets oil, gas wells to boost teacher pay

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DURANT, Okla. -- In an effort to patch up a $200 million budget shortfall, the Oklahoma House of Representatives voted Wednesday for a bill that would increase taxes on oil and gas wells from 4 to 7 percent.

But not all wells would be affected by the hike: Only 6,000 smaller producing wells -- called "legacy wells" -- would see their taxes raised.

State Rep. Pat Ownbey (R-District 48) believes the tax should also apply to the larger oil companies that are producing much more.

"Oklahoma is making much less than other states," he said. "When oil companies say 'We are going to move to a different state to drill,' my question is going to be: 'Where are you going to move?'"

The tax is anticipated to generate about $50 million for this fiscal year -- House Speaker Charles McCall (R-District 22) said that figure could double in the next fiscal year -- all planned to go toward raising salaries for teachers, which was the house's top goal last year.

But Durant Independent School District Superintendent Duane Merideth is concerned that legislators are repeating what they did in the regular session.

"We are playing partisan politics when we need to be doing what's right by the State of Oklahoma," he said.

Representatives understand the dilemma, and say that a pay hike for teachers must require a new revenue source, such as a gross production tax, in order to get close to their goal.

"I appreciate any money we get for the citizens of our state, and most importantly our children and our teachers," Merideth said. "We need to do something to help that."

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