Equalization board certifies $7 billion in funds for next fiscal year

The 2013 legislative session is right around the corner, which means haggling over the next state budget is not far off.

And today the Board of Equalization has certified $7 billion to be allotted for Gov. Mary Fallin to design her state budget for Fiscal Year 2014, which begins July 1st. This certification means there will be an extra $214.6 million more for the upcoming fiscal year than there was in the current year.

The seven-member board met to act on the official initial estimate, though national events surrounding the fiscal cliff could still impact that projection.

“National events could change the equation down the road, so we must proceed cautiously as we begin building the state budget,” said State Finance Sec. Preston Doerflinger.

The board will meet again in February to make another estimate which will be used in legislative negotiations, but this early estimate should be reason for optimism for Oklahoma’s hard-working state employees, who haven’t received a raise since 2006.

“While these numbers are preliminary and things could change, this news is very positive for state employees,” said OPEA Executive Director Sterling Zearley. “State employee salaries have been lagging behind market in a major way for a long time now. Hopefully this higher projection means Oklahoma’s leaders will implement OPEA’s market-based pay program so our citizens can continue to be served by quality workers.”

During the recent interim study period, support for state employee compensation reform grew in a bipartisan manner. Rep. Leslie Osborn and Sen. Patrick Anderson are both planning to support legislation in the House and Senate to improve state employee compensation. Republicans and Democrats in both chambers believe state employees will see meaningful performance pay increases in the 2013 session.

“This isn’t a partisan issue,” said Trish Frazier, OPEA Policy Director. “Both sides of the aisle are understating that to make this great state run well, we need the best and brightest to come to work for the state and stay put. The sense I have is that the legislators understand that keeping good state employees is important. We can’t keep losing people to the private sector. I believe this initial projection is great for the cause of performance pay for state employees and I’m very optimistic it will happen in the upcoming session.”

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