Legislation Deep Dive: Bills Increasing State Employee Compensation

On Legislative Deep Dives we will go over the details of legislation that will impact Oklahoma state employees. Every other week during the session OPEA will publish the Advocate newsletter. Each time it will include a full update on all OPEA legislation, but Deep Dives is where we will talk about how these bills will work if implemented. This week we are covering bills that improve state employee compensation in some form or fashion. We will continue to update members on these bills as they move through the legislative process. Next Thursday, March 24th is the legislative deadline for bills to be heard in their house of origin. If you have questions about any of these bills please contact the OPEA office at 405-524-6764 or Tony DeSha at tonyd@opea.org.

House Bill 3422 by Rep. Mike Osburn

This bill is the infrastructure to begin state employee Market-Based Pay. Members have heard me, OPEA Membership Reps, and elected officials talk about moving state employees to a Market Based Pay structure. After our interim study from October 7th. 2021 where OPEA advocated for a market-based pay structure this is the bill that puts the program into place.October 7th, 2021 Interim Study. OPEA Executive Director Sterling Zearley

HB 3422 will establish a yearly internal study conducted by OMES to examine the overall compensation of all state employee positions. This study will include an analysis of job types, compensation levels compared to the private market, and overall staffing levels in specific positions within the state workforce. Once concluded the study results will be given to stakeholders to address issues identified by the compensation study. The identified issue areas will be for example job classes being paid under 90% market value and positions with critical staffing concerns. In addition to the annual study, subsequent studies will be conducted every four years by an independent contractor to examine the benchmarks used in the annual OMES compensation study and the needs within the state workforce. This is a check to guarantee OMES is fairly evaluating state employee job classes and pay.

OPEA first learned of the market-based approach from our friends to the east at the Tennessee Public Employees Association (TPEA). This legislation closely mirrors practices used in the state of Tennessee where the study has allowed for compensation to closely match the need of agencies to attract and retain quality employees and the need of the employees to be well compensated for their labor.  Twelve years ago prior to implementing this legislation, the State of Tennessee was in a similar position to Oklahoma. Tennessee state employees were far below 90% market value and struggling to recruit and retain quality employees. This legislation turned around their state employee workforce increasing pay and improving state employee recruitment and retention. The bill will allow Oklahoma to recruit more top-tier talent and ensure that we retain our most valuable veteran employees.

This legislation passed the house floor 90-0. The next step for this legislation is to the Senate Committee. Keep an eye out for calls to action regarding this important legislation.

Historically, OPEA would ask for one-time raises for Oklahoma’s State Employees, 5% raise this session, $1500 raises next session, etc. If passed we would no longer have to beg for raises year after year. This legislation is the long-term solution for state employee compensation. This is transformative legislation make sure you act when we send out calls to action regarding HB 3422. In a show of good faith for working to pass HB 3422, the state legislature has filed legislation for a 3% across-the-board pay raise for Oklahoma State employees.

HB 3671 by Rep. Max Wolfey

This Bill by Rep. Max Wolfey would give every Oklahoma state employee making less than $80,000 a year a 3% increase on their salary. This legislation does exclude specific employees and officers from the pay raise, but that is a limited number of state employees. If your position would be excluded you would know about it. You would have been excluded from previous across-the-board raises. This pay raise is targeted to the employees who need the raise the most. An $80,000 annual salary is far above the average Oklahoma state employee salary which is just over $50,000 a year. The majority of Oklahoma state employees will be included in this pay raise if passed.

This bill passed the House floor on March 9, 2022, with a vote of 82-2.

HB 3320 by Rep. Nicole Miller

HB 3320 will allow state employees a discounted two-night stay at state parks and lodges. The legislation would establish a pilot program for all state employees that closely mirrors a program that is currently offered to employees of the Oklahoma Department of Tourism. Employees that participate in the program would schedule a free night stay however, the employee is required to cover the fees of their stay as well as taxes and additional expenses such as damages, snack charges, etc. Employees would also be required to complete a questionnaire after their stay to provide feedback to the facilities. The Department of Tourism is working with OPEA on this bill. When a state employee is scheduling a free stay high traffic holidays will be restricted, and employees can be bumped if the park reaches capacity. This legislation will provide a new and exciting benefit to state employees as well as an opportunity to promote our wonderful state park system.

This bill passed the house floor on March 8, 2022, with a vote of 86-6

HB 3669 by Rep. Max Wolfey

HB 3669 will increase the current limit on tax exemptions that state employee retirees currently receive. Currently, state employee retirees are exempt from the first $10,000 received in income benefits. This legislation will increase that limit to the first $15,000. HB 3669 will allow these dedicated public servants to have access to more expendable income to face the ever-increasing cost of living on a fixed income.

This bill passed the house floor on March 9, 2022, with a vote of 74-0

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