The 2014 legislative session has not yet begun, but state employees, are already the target of harmful legislation. House Bill 2630 by Rep. Randy McDaniel proposes that all new state employees participate in a defined contribution pension plan rather than the current defined benefit plan. House Bill 2629, also by McDaniel, would require new workers in the state’s hazardous employee pension plan work 22 years instead of 20 before being retirement eligible. This legislation is being presented despite a recent independent study that shows Oklahoma’s state employee salaries are too low and steps must be taken this year to improve them before any changes to benefits are made.
“These bills are irresponsible, put more risk on employees and do nothing to address the problem of low salaries,” said Sterling Zearley, executive director of the Oklahoma Public Employees Association. “The recent remuneration study said Oklahoma must begin improving compensation this year but Rep. McDaniel wants to reduce employee benefits without addressing total compensation
“We hear state leaders say there is no money for pay increases this year but McDaniel proposes cutting benefits rather than addressing salaries,” he said. “OPEA will not stand for cuts to benefits or a defined contribution pension plan.”
HB 2629 applies to Oklahoma’s “hazardous duty employees” including correctional officers, probation and parole officers, fugitive apprehension agents of the Department of Corrections as well as Oklahoma Military Department firefighters.
“The employees targeted by Rep. McDaniel put their lives on the line every day for their fellow Oklahomans,” Zearley said “Rep. McDaniel would understand how dangerous these jobs are if he had spent any time with these employees in the line of duty.” Many of them have not had raises in years so it makes no sense to cut their benefits when we need to be increasing their pay.
“At a time when correctional facilities are 60 percent staffed and 100 percent at capacity, why don’t we support those employees and other state employees by funding and implementing the compensation plan. This would improve staffing levels at DOC and reduce turnover costs at other state agencies,” Zearley said.]]>