Representatives Unanimously Pass State Employee Pay Bill

Oklahoma City – Legislation with a goal of bringing state employee pay to at least 90 percent of market passed out of the House of Representatives Tuesday by a vote of 90-0. This vote was the first step in creating the “State Employee Pay Program”. If signed into law, this legislation would set aside three percent of the previous fiscal year’s payroll costs for salary adjustments each year. The bill would also remove salary structures from statute and give authority to the Office of Management Enterprise Services to set pay structures and determine if targeted pay band adjustments are necessary.

“We are encouraged that the house overwhelmingly passed this bill which would improve pay for state employees,” said Sterling Zearley, OPEA executive director. “What is important about this legislation is that it provides the foundation for changes in how state employees are paid and puts us on track to bring state employee salaries closer to market.”

“Oklahoma needs a system that rewards employees for doing a good job and provides an opportunity for raises more frequently than every seven or eight years,” Zearley said. “Currently, we have no system in place that offers employees a structured opportunity for pay raises. While there is still work to be done on this legislation, we believe the house vote is a step in the right direction.”

The bill is consistent with an independent remuneration study conducted in 2013, at the request of Gov. Mary Fallin’s office, that showed that most state employees are paid approximately 20 percent less than what similar workers in the private market earn.

OPEA worked with the bill’s author Rep. Leslie Osborn to remove language that would have reduced the amount of sick leave they accrue annually and lowers the amount of shared leave that would be available to employees. The remuneration study did recommend those changes be made this year. However, since pension changes for future employees is also being considered OPEA felt there should be no changes made to current state employee benefits.

“The State of Oklahoma is losing skilled and educated employees to retirement and the private sector,” said Osborn. “Our state agencies need productive minds and ingenuity to fill those gaps, provide better services and address the problems of the future. Competitive wages will greatly enhance the state’s ability to choose from the top recruits.”
Speaker Jeff Hickman praised OPEA for its work in helping to develop proposals to improve state employee compensation.

“OPEA’s members and staff have worked with my office and other state leaders to develop responsible proposals to improve state employment,” Hickman said. “Together, with OPEA, we are able to discuss the day-to-day problems faced by the hard working men and women of the Department of Corrections, DHS, Veterans Affairs and other agencies and develop responsible solutions to issues like employee compensation and staffing levels. OPEA brings experience, knowledge and the willingness to conduct meaningful dialogue to the table.”

“In discussions with OPEA,” he said. “I have found that they work toward finding solutions to challenges rather than just pointing out what may be wrong and it is through this type of dialogue that we will be able to begin to take the steps necessary to make better state employment through improvements in compensation."

The House also voted to change the pension system for future state employees from the current defined benefit system to a defined contribution system.

“While we may not agree that changing the pension system will help recruit new employees, we do understand some lawmakers’ desire to look at employee benefits,” Zearley said. “We still believe that the state needs make real improvements state employee salaries before proposing any benefit changes.”

7 comments (Add your own)

1. Concerned wrote:
Although better compensation is a positive step, the amount recommended is barely enough to cover the increase in insurance premium hikes that went into effect on January 01, 2014. Now pension reform; next will be longevity & benefits. Most legislators believe that state employees benefits are far too fruitful. Of course, except for their own packages. Without even a cost of living raise in the last eight years and we are supposed to be happy? It is almost a slap in the face towards all state employees affected.

Thu, March 13, 2014 @ 10:50 AM

2. W Lynn Hodges wrote:
I too have concerns. Besides bringing pay for numerous job classifications to 90% of market pay, OMES is also tasked with the responsibility of evaluating all classifications yearly and comparing pay to the market. If current trends of inflation rates and pay increases in industry averaging 3% per year, the state will have a major challenge to bring many job classifications to the 90% market pay target as specified in HB3293. My big question - where will they get the money? It's estimated they need $150M to implement the Pinnacle Plan - agreed to by the Court and State/DHS.

Thu, March 13, 2014 @ 12:03 PM

3. Concerned wrote:
If this signed into law, when will the raises become effective?Will it be during the physical year or January 2015?

Thu, March 13, 2014 @ 9:07 PM

4. Terry wrote:
I know how they can raise the money. Drill for more oil underneath the state capital!

Sat, March 15, 2014 @ 9:02 AM

5. Jack wrote:
I have been a state employee for over 20 years. Some of the things we get for benefits were a result of the Oklahoma legislature not giving us pay raises. for example longevity, paying 75 percent of the cost of our dependant insurance just to name a few. I would hate to see us loose those benefits. I am hopeful with this legislation that we keep those benefits for current employees.Under current federal rulings all the people in the same class doing the same work must be paid the same. Longevity pay is the only way to reward thoses employees for continued service. As for as omes being tasked with doing yearly market studies and comparing them to the market one has to question the availability of funds since the governor and legislature want to reduce taxes. I do think that all state employees should get a yearly cost of living raise equal to or above inflation rates.

Wed, March 19, 2014 @ 9:22 AM

6. edward wrote:
yes the rep. passed the bill because they know the senate will not pass it because there won't be any money after the teachers and the legislature gets their raises. the troopers and all the staff got huge raises from the full fledged troopers to the troopers right out of academy to the dispatcher. that's what my rep. said in his Feb. report, it was like a slap in the face again, after he said that there was not going to be any money, but that's the way it goes for the state employees and retires.

Wed, March 19, 2014 @ 9:11 PM

7. edward wrote:
why don't they take the $380 million they want to give to teachers and divide it up between the teachers, D.H.S. and D.O.C. that would put us up to the market in a one time raise, then continue to give raises to keep us at market every year, I don't see any problem with that, but the teachers want it all. And the Gov. and the legislature wants to give it all to the teachers, $380 million divided three ways would seem a lot more fair and would make everyone happy. But don't look for it to be that way.

Thu, March 20, 2014 @ 4:14 PM

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