The Governor’s Task Force on State Employee Compensation met Tuesday, November 20 to discuss the draft recommendations and the format of the final report.
Over the past two months, the Task Force has met several times to discuss the issues with state employee compensation in Oklahoma. The topics have included:
- The gap between state employee pay and market;
- Lack of funding for pay raises and market adjustments;
- Lack of data and accountability on unclassified position compensation;
- Recruitment and retention issues;
- Benefit structure; and
- Challenges with the longevity program, which has not been increased since 1989.
The task force has discussed that the state has no “compensation philosophy” or a strategy for handling state employee pay. In contrast, the health benefits are generous compared to most private sector employers. The defined contribution program, or SoonerSave, has not been increased since its inception and is not competitive with the market.
“Because state employee compensation has so many challenges and components, the Task Force is recommending both short and long term solutions,” said OPEA Executive Director Sterling Zearley.
For the long term, the Task Force is recommending a comprehensive evaluation and restructuring of the compensation program by an outside consultant. The study would include studying the value of the state benefit package, and evaluation of the compensation in both classified and unclassified positions.
“While the problems with the state compensation system have developed over decades and cannot be solved quickly, OPEA has stressed that state employees cannot wait another year for the consultants to complete their work,” said Zearley.
To address the immediate challenge of state employee pay, the Task Force is recommending a pay raise for state employees next session.
The resolution, passed by the Task Force, states: “The Governor shall submit and the legislature shall consider a multi-year plan to bring state employee compensation to market. In the 2008 legislative session, the plan shall be based on the best available market data including the 2007 OPM Compensation Report. The multi-year plan shall transition in the 2009 session to the data based the total compensation model recommended by the Task Force on State Employee Compensation.”
“The OPM Compensation Report will be out this week,” said Zearley. “Preliminary discussions are that the report will show state employee compensation averages at least 10 percent below market. This should be a wake-up call to state leaders that they must act with a substantial pay raise in the next year, if they want to ensure a workforce to serve the people of Oklahoma.”
Governor Henry created the Task Force in April by Executive Order 2007-13. The group has been meeting since September and must report to the governor and legislature by January 1, 2008. It consists of four members from the private sector, the directors of the two largest state agencies, the director of the Office of State Finance, the Director of the Office of Personnel Management, and OPEA Executive Director Sterling Zearley.